Edinburgh University criticised over animal testing

Animal rights activists protest in Edinburgh. File picture: Jayne Wright
Animal rights activists protest in Edinburgh. File picture: Jayne Wright
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EDINBURGH University has been criticised over the number of animals tested in its laboratories.

The institution is one of five leading British universities compiled by the anti-vivisection organisation Cruelty Free International, with 226,730 animals used in experiments in 2014.

The University of Oxford headed the list, followed in decreasing order 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 laws. 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.

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.”

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.

Other “disturbing” experiments allegedly included rats being injected with acid to cause brain damage.

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 per cent) 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.”

British universities killed more than a million animals in scientific research experiments last year alone, including dogs, cats and primates in 2013.

Almost a million mice were killed, with some institutions euthanising more than 200,000 animals a year. Oxford University put 29 monkeys to sleep, 43 badgers, 18 pigs and nearly 200,000 mice, an investigation by student paper the Tab disclosed.

Animal welfare charity PETA said universities should “rethink” their policies on animal testing – claiming 90 per cent of drugs fail human trials.