• FOI requests reveal universities test on seals, rabbits, hamsters and more

• Animal rights group say ‘depressing’ pattern taking place

Universities in Scotland have been criticised by campaigners for a “depressing” rise in scientific testing on animals, which saw more than 900,000 used in two years.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act from 13 Universities show the number of animals tested on by universities across Scotland increased by 70,345 in 2011 compared to 2010.

The top university was the University of Stirling who conducted experiments on 353,482 animals over the two years, this was followed by the University of Edinburgh who tested on 346,380 animals.

Between the two they accounted for more than two thirds of the 913,527 animals tested upon.

Campaign group Scotland for Animals have called for universities to stop testing on animals and focus on other alternatives.

“It’s just another rise in animal experiments and there’s starting to be a depressing pattern going on here and the government is supplying universities with money to experiment on animals when they should be looking at non-animal testing alternatives.” said their spokesperson John Patrick

He said: “There should be changes across the whole of the country the Scottish government, I know animal experiments aren’t a devolved matter, but the Scottish government have been given plenty of scope to work on this.”

The most commonly tested on animals were fish, mice and rats.

Among the other animals tested upon were frogs, rabbits, hamsters, sheep, and toads. The University of St Andrews also tested on a total of 720 seals in the two years.

The universities of Stirling and Edinburugh both defended the tests on animals saying they are committed to reducing, replacing and refining the experiments on animals.

A spokesperson for the University of Stirling said: “Fish are the only animals used in scientific experiments by the University of Stirling. The vast majority of these fish are used in trials to improve the diet or husbandry of farmed fish and the outcome of these experiments is classified as mild.

Figures from the Home Office show there were 3.7million scientific procedures started on animals in 2011 across the United Kingdom – an increase of 2% from the year before.

Testing on animals is strictly regulated by the UK Government, which issues licenses for projects and to individuals allowing them to conduct experiments under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

The figures also show there were 15,403 people with holding personal licenses during 2011.

They said: “Research using animals has played and continues to play a key role in the advancement of medical, biological and veterinary science.A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said the majority of animals used in research were mice and fish, many of which were used for breeding only.

“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, diabetes and mental illness.

“The majority of animals used in research are mice and fish of different genetic composition, many of which are used for breeding only.”

Queen Margaret University and the University of Abertay were the only two of the universities who said they did not conduct any testing on animals during the two years.

Edinburugh Napier University tested on the least amount of animals of those who do research, completing experiments on 19 Sprauge Dawley rats in 2010 and 8 in 2011.

The other 11 universities who admitted to experimenting on animals were: University of Stirling, University of Edinburgh, University of Dundee, University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt University, University of St Andrews, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of West Scotland, Robert Gordon University.

View Scottish Universities’ Animal Testing in a larger map

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Featured image: www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/Flickr under creative commons

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare time ever since.