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9 March 2015, 06:07
Almost 170,000 animals were used in experiments by Cambridge University in 2013.
In total, a quarter of the animals used in scientific research in the UK in 2013 were tested in the laboratories of just six universities, including at Cambridge, new figures have shown.
Between them, the six conducted experiments on just over a million animals that year, according to information obtained by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).
Some of the animals - which included monkeys, sheep and rabbits as well as rats, mice and fish - were subjected to ``distressing and disturbing'' procedures, it was claimed.
At the top of the animal testing league was the University of Edinburgh, which used 241,865 animals in experiments.
It was followed by Oxford University (190,169), University College London (181,295), Cambridge University (169,353), King's College London (132,885) and Imperial College London (130,358).
In 2013, 4,017,758 animals were used in 4,121,582 experiments in the UK, Home Office statistics show.
Of these animals, 1.8 million were tested in university laboratories, according to the BUAV. The six named universities alone accounted for 1,045,925.
Dr Katy Taylor, head of science at the BUAV, said: ``Shockingly, universities account for half of the total number of animals used in experiments carried out in the UK and are responsible for some particularly distressing and disturbing experiments.
``Yet, despite growing concern regarding animal research, much of it is publicly funded. It is ironic that many universities are also leaders in the research to find alternatives to using animals.
``So while one department may be developing cutting edge alternatives, another may be breeding animals to be used in experiments.''
The experiments highlighted by the BUAV involved animals being brain damaged, injected with chemicals that cause severe disabilities, and forced to perform repetitive computer tasks.
In one anxiety experiment at Cambridge University, marmoset monkeys were said to have been blasted with loud noise and frightened with rubber snakes resembling cobras.
A Cambridge University spokesman said: ``We are proud of our research, which meets the highest standards of animal welfare and is scrutinised by our Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board - who strive to reduce the number of animals used.
``Our scientists are actively looking at new techniques to replace the use of animals in research. But without the use of animals, we would not have many of the modern medicines, antibiotics, vaccines and surgical techniques that we take for granted in both human and veterinary medicine.
``Some of the important and pioneering work carried out in Cambridge that has led to major improvements in people's lives was only possible with the use of animals - from the development of IVF techniques through to new drugs for multiple sclerosis and cancer.''