The University of Edinburgh has insisted animal testing is a vital part of medical research after it was again revealed to have used more animals in experiments than any other institution in the UK.
A Freedom of Information request found that a quarter of the animals used in scientific research in the UK in 2013 were tested in the laboratories of just six universities.
And at the top of the animal testing league was the University of Edinburgh, which used 241,865 animals in experiments - an increase of some 20,000 from the previous year.
Between them, the six conducted experiments on just over a million animals that year, according to information The figures were obtained by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV, who claimed some of the animals - which included monkeys, sheep and rabbits as well as rats, mice and fish - were subjected to “distressing and disturbing” procedures,
A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said: “Research using animals has played and continues to play a key role in the advancement of medical, biological and veterinary science. It has made a vital contribution towards the understanding, prevention, treatment and cure of a wide range of major health problems, including cancer, heart disease and psychiatric disorders.
“The University of Edinburgh uses animals in research programmes 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.
“The university is actively involved in the development of alternative approaches that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research.”
The figures were produced in response to a Freedom of Information request made by the BUAV.
In 2013, 4,017,758 animals were used in 4,121,582 experiments in the UK, Home Office statistics show.
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.”