On Air Now
1 February 2016, 08:13
Five of Britain's top universities have been named and shamed over the number of animals tested in their laboratories in 2014.
he University of Oxford headed the list compiled by the anti-vivisection organisation Cruelty Free International, with a total of 226,739 animals used in experiments.
In decreasing order, it was followed by Edinburgh (200,861), University College London (176,901), King's College London (165,068), and Cambridge (160,557).
The figures were obtained by Freedom of Information requests. Of 70 UK universities approached, 48 replied in full while 17 sent partial responses.
Five universities, Manchester, Southampton, Imperial College London, Bristol and Aston failed to return any data, said Cruelty Free International.
Among the animals tested were rats, mice, birds, frogs, fish, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, sheep and monkeys.
Dr Katy Taylor, director of science at Cruelty Free International, formerly the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), said: ''The public will be shocked to learn that five of the UK's leading universities are responsible for testing on almost one million animals, despite an increasing number of universities recognising this isn't the way to do research.
''We urge them to leave this archaic practice behind and move towards developing innovative and humane research methods for the 21st century.''
Monkey experiments conducted at some universities were said to involve animals being deprived of food or water, having electrodes implanted in their skulls or limbs, and being blasted with loud noise while trapped in a box.
Other ''disturbing'' experiments allegedly included rats being injected with acid to cause brain damage, and pregnant sheep being injected with testosterone twice a week or having their ovaries punctured during surgery.
Testing in universities accounts for around half of all animal experimentation in the UK according to the Home Office, said Cruelty Free International.
Cambridge University said animal research played an ''essential role'' in understanding disease and developing medicines.
A spokesman said: ``We place good welfare at the centre of all our animal research and aim to meet the highest standards: good animal welfare and good science go hand-in-hand.
''Our research is scrutinised by the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body, who strive to reduce the number of animals used.
''Although animals will play a role in biomedical research for the foreseeable future, we aim to use the minimum number possible. Our researchers are actively looking at ways to help refine their science and to reduce - and ultimately replace - the use of animals in research.''
King's College London said its work with animals was ``part of the basis for major research breakthroughs in health and medicine''.
A spokesman added: ''Animal research at King's is ethically reviewed and we only use animal models where there is no other viable alternative.
''We are dedicated to high standards of animal welfare at King's and all of our animals are cared for in accordance with strict Home Office regulations.''
A statement from University College London said: ''UCL is committed to openness about our animal research and we are a signatory to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK.
''All figures quoted in the Cruelty Free International release are freely available on our dedicated Animal Research website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/animal-research/facts-figures.''
A University of Edinburgh spokesman said: ''The University of Edinburgh is the largest university in Scotland and one of the UK's top rated research universities. A small proportion of our research involves the use of animals as a vital component of the quest to advance medical, biological and veterinary science.
''We use animals in research programmes - predominately rodents and fish (97%) only when their use is justified on scientific, ethical and legal grounds, and when no alternatives are available.
''All such work is strictly regulated and carried out under licences, which are reviewed and approved by the Home Office and are issued only if the potential benefits of the work are likely to outweigh the effects on the animals concerned.''