Sharp rise in use of animals in NI research

Sharp rise in use of animals in NI research

The number of animals used in scientific, medical and veterinary research in Northern Ireland rose sharply in 2021, it has been revealed.

Department of Health figures show that 29,221 procedures were carried out here last year, 28.7% more than in 2020.

More than 95% of the procedures were carried out in mice, fish, rats, and birds, whereas cats and dogs accounted for 0.2% of all procedures in 2021.

While mice are the most common species used (84% of the total), pigs, sheep, and cattle together account for 4.7% of research, reflecting the large amount of agricultural research conducted in Northern Ireland.

In 2021, England, Scotland and Wales carried out 3,056,243 procedures on animals, of which 96% were on mice, fish, rats, and birds. The 29,221 procedures carried out in Northern Ireland represent approximately 0.95% of animal research across the UK.

An increase in animal procedures in 2021 compared to 2020 was not unexpected. In 2020, animal procedures decreased by 19% compared to 2019, the lowest since 2016. This was due to various COVID-19 national lockdowns imposing strict limits on daily life and causing many institutions to delay or stop research studies using animals during 2020

The number of procedures carried out in a year does not equal the number of animals that have been used in procedures that year. This is because some animals may be used more than once i.e. ‘re-used’, in certain circumstances. These instances are counted as separate, additional, procedures. As a result, the number of procedures is usually slightly higher than the number of animals used. 28,953 animals were used for the first time in 2021.

More details on Northern Irish statistics can be found HERE.