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Today, the Home Office published its annual statistics on the use of animals in scientific research. It shows that 4.12 million scientific procedures were started in Great Britain in 2013, a slight increase of 0.3% compared with 2012 but with a slight decrease in the overall number of animals involved.

There has been a 5% decrease relative to 2012 in the number of these procedures (2.02 million, or 49% of the total) performed for purposes other than the breeding of genetically altered animals.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, says: "The Society of Biology supports the use of animals in research when no alternatives are available. The UK's high standards have benefits for welfare and for science - good welfare and good research go hand in hand. We fully support the UK focus on the reduction, refinement and replacement (3Rs) of animals in research."

Animal research is carried out when it is assessed as of overall benefit for humans or animals. The purpose is often to increase understanding or develop new treatments. Antibiotics, vaccines and chemotherapy are a few of the life-saving medical advances which relied on the use of animals.

Professor Dominic Wells, chair of our Animal Science Group, says: "The 2013 statistics on the use of research animals show a decrease in use of normal animals offset by an increase in the use of genetically altered animals, mostly mice. Genetically altered mice play a vital role in understanding gene function and the role of such genes in disease. This has enabled the development of more precisely targeted medicines. Genetically altered mice are particularly important for the creation of animal models of human disease, especially the 5000 or more rare genetic diseases, which add up to more than 5% of the human population. Such genetically altered models are vital in the hunt for effective treatments for these serious and often life threatening conditions."