Published Monday, 10 February 2014
Over 12,000 mice were used in experiments in one year in NI. (© Getty)
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Statistics from the Department of Health, acquired by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), showed that in 2012 there was a slight decrease of just over 1% in the number of animals used for research.
These included 12,132 mice, 1,255 rats, 69 rabbits, six cats, 12 dogs and seven horses.
Animals which are used in such laboratory tests are destroyed.
BUAV also expressed concern that the six cats were subjected to 167 experiments, an average of almost 28 experiments per animal while the 12 dogs were subjected to an average of 11 experiments each.
A spokesperson said they would be asking the government to explain why these types of experiments are happening.
BUAV said the use of animals by universities has risen so it now comprises 70% of animal experiments in Northern Ireland.
Out of the total 17,455 animals used in experiments in 2012 - 13,784 animals were used at universities - 11,886 animals at Queen's University and 1,898 animals at the University of Ulster.
Feeding rats lavender oil to see if it reduced anxiety after blasting them with loud noises and bright lights and pumping rats with a hormone to see if it made them lose weight are examples of animal research carried out.
Responding to the figures, a statement from Queen's University said within the last five years, they have only used only rats, mice and a small number of guinea pigs, rabbits and frogs within the Biological Resource Unit for "essential animal experimentation".
As a leading research university, Queen’s conducts research on animals only when it is absolutely essential for clinical, biomedical and environmental studies and where there are no alternatives.
A spokesperson said: "All such work is heavily regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and its subsequent amendments. The research is conducted under licences issued by the Home Office in accordance with UK legislation, and is equally scrutinised by the University Animal Welfare and Ethics Review Board.
"The use of animals within the University is strictly regulated through the submission of detailed annual returns to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on the numbers and types of animals and procedures used. The University also has a clear policy on Animal Experimentation."
In a statement, a DHSSPS spokesperson said: "All experiments in Northern Ireland are monitored under the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, which is UK-wide legislation.
"The UK has one of the most stringent regulatory regimes in the world for protecting the welfare of animals that are used for scientific procedures."
The spokesperson said that there is a widely accepted humane ethical framework of replacement aka non-animal methods, reducing the number of animals used and refining methods to improve animal welfare.
They added: "There are no plans to introduce any new regulations in Northern Ireland or to adopt a policy for Northern Ireland that is different from the rest of the UK."
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