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Today, the Home Office published their annual statistics on the use of animals in scientific research. It shows that 4.11 million procedures were started in Great Britain in 2012, demonstrating a decrease in the number of procedures for toxicology (down to 377,000) but an increase for non-toxicology procedures by 10%, especially related to nutrition research (79,300).

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, says: "Good welfare and good research go hand in hand. We are encouraged to see that the UK's high standards of animal welfare and a continued focus on the reduction, refinement and replacement (3Rs) of animals in research has led to a decrease in the use of animals for many species for example fish (-11%), rabbits (-10%) and pigs (-22%). The Society of Biology supports the use of animals in research when no alternatives are available and notes that it is the increase in the breeding of genetically modified animals (+22%) which has led to an overall increase of 8% from last year, reflecting the growing knowledge of the genome and a stronger drive to address genetic diseases worldwide."

Animal research is carried out for the benefit of humans and animals and has played a vital role in life-saving treatments such as antibiotics, vaccines, chemotherapy and pioneering medical procedures. It has greatly improved our understanding of diseases and normal physiological processes. New developments have allowed scientist to create genetically modified animals which are better models for human diseases, hence their use has increased.

Professor Dominic Wells, chair of our Animal Science Group, says: "The increase in the use of animals is in part the consequence of an increasing focus on developing treatments for rare diseases driven by increased industrial interest and partnerships with academia. It reflects the high volume of internationally recognised genetic research being conducted in the UK."

The Society of Biology will continue to support a reduction in the use of animals in research, and the NC3Rs/Society of Biology Symposia demonstrate the energy and effort being given to these developments. They show encouraging state of the art scientific advances in 3Rs, in the continuous effort to improve animal welfare while promoting UK bioscience research.

A written ministerial statement by the Minister for Criminal Information (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) can be found on the Home Office website.