Thanks to the development of new non-animal testing methods, as well as increased awareness of the drawbacks of animal testing, animal testing in the United Kingdom has reached its lowest level of the past 12 years. According to PharmaTimes, the number of experiments performed on animals in 2018 was down 7 percent from 2017. Nonetheless, the United Kingdom still has a long way to go before animal testing becomes a thing of the past.
Breaking Down the Numbers
The decrease in animal testing comes as good news for most interested parties, including the government of the United Kingdom and anyone who opposes animal cruelty. With millions of tests performed each year, a decrease of 7 percent is significant. In addition, seeing animal tests at the lowest level in a decade is encouraging.
Although the number of animals being subjected to tests in the UK has fallen considerably. In fact, PharmaTimes reports that there were approximately 3.52 million procedures performed on animals in Scotland, England and Wales during 2018. While some of these procedures were performed for academic research, others were performed to test specific products, such as cosmetics.
Why Are Animal Tests Still Common?
In spite of the recent decrease in animal testing, the UK still performs more tests on lab animals than most of the rest of Europe. For some people, this trend is perplexing. Researchers in the United Kingdom have access to other testing methods that could replace animal testing. In addition, these methods are just as affordable and more effective than animal tests.
Nonetheless, animal testing persists.
One of the reasons United Kingdom researchers continue to test on animals is simply habit. Animal tests have been used for so long that some labs are reluctant to explore other methods. Another reason often cited by proponents of animal testing has to do with concerns about accuracy. Researchers worry that the alternative to animal testing won’t provide as much information as an animal test. For example, cosmetic companies that want to know whether a product will irritate the eyes may prefer to use animals because they believe the results will translate more effectively to a human population.
Moving to Better Methods
In 2010, the United Kingdom’s government made a commitment to reduce the country’s usage of animals for the purpose of scientific research. Since then, progress has been made. Many cosmetic companies have embraced new methods and technologies that can provide the same or better results than animal tests without subjecting to harming animals. Unfortunately, some cosmetic companies remain skeptical of these methods and hesitant to adopt them.
In order to increase the adoption of alternatives to animal testing in the United Kingdom and other locations, education and innovation are key. Academic organizations and for-profit companies need to be aware of the alternatives available to them. It is also important to spread awareness of animal testing weaknesses. Specifically, animal models fail more often than they succeed, which leads to inaccurate results.
This is dangerous regardless of the situation, whether the researcher is investigating the safety of a new product or trying to understand the progress of a certain disease.
The United Kingdom has made progress with regard to the use of animal testing, but improvements can still be made. Fortunately, the field of non-animal testing is evolving with new technologies becoming available all the time. As more technologies are developed, it is likely that the adoption of non-animal testing methods will become more widespread, not only in the United Kingdom but all around the world.