Data released this week revealed Oxford University carries out experiments on more animals than any of the UK’s other top ten biomedical research universities.
Oxford carried out over 226,000 procedures in 2015, roughly split between experiments and the breeding of genetically modified animals, with 99 per cent of the procedures conducted upon rodents or fish.
Oxford University stated in a press release, “Animal research has played a key role in the development of virtually every medicine that we take for granted today… Medical research is a slow process with no easy answers, but animal research helps to take us incrementally closer to treatments for cancer, dementia, stroke and countless other conditions.
“While many animal studies do not lead directly to treatments for diseases, ‘basic science’ research helps scientists to understand different processes in the body and how they can go wrong, underpinning future efforts to diagnose and treat various conditions. Additionally, many studies will show that a line of research is not worth pursuing.”
Medical and health related teaching at Oxford was recently declared the best in the world by Times Higher Education for the sixth year running, in part thanks to animal research carried out at the university. This research is carried out under the terms of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, a charter that commits signatories to greater openness and transparency about how and why animals are used in research.
Director of Science at Cruelty Free International Dr Kathy Taylor told Cherwell, “We believe the public will be shocked to learn that Oxford University, one of the country’s most highly regarded academic institutions, is also responsible for conducting over 225,000 experiments on animals per year, more than any other university in Britain.
“Despite a trend in universities recognising this isn’t the way to do research, the stats from Oxford University’s figures remain consistent, showing that little effort has been made to reduce the numbers of animals tested on or experiments carried out.
“Universities such as Oxford should be leading the way in the development of more humane and human-relevant research methods instead of perpetuating an outdated practice that leads to the suffering and death of thousands of animals. We urge Oxford and all universities to focus on innovative and ethical scientific techniques for the 21st century for the good of both humans and animals.”
The campaign group SPEAK, the Voice for Animals, has collated what they allege to be examples of unnecessarily cruel experiments conducted at Oxford. These include brain damaged monkeys being forced to watch fish, monkeys being placed in small cages and set thousands of tests, and monkeys having part of their brain’s visual cortex removed then kept alive and tested for nine years.
After Oxford, the universities with the next highest number of animal testing procedures were Edinburgh (212,695), UCL (202,554) and the University of Cambridge (181,080). The top ten universities in the UK for animal testing combined carry out 1.37 million procedure a year, a third of the UK total.
In 2005, an Animal Liberation Front arson attack upon the Longbridges boathouse—which houses rowing boats from Hertford and several other colleges—caused £500,000 worth of damage and destroyed 24 boats. In 2006 and 2007 several makeshift bombs were detonated on university property before Mel Broughton, an animal rights activist, was jailed.
These attacks sought to prevent the construction of a new Oxford University biomedical and animal research facility that would bring all research animals together under one roof. The campaign was unsuccessful and the Biomedical Sciences Building became operational in 2009.
The top ten institutions conduct more than two thirds of all UK university animal research, completing a combined total of 1.37 million procedures Oxford is yet to respond to Cherwell’s request for comment.