Using animals in research

Facts and figures

The number of animals used in research

As part of the University's commitment to openness and transparency in all areas of our research, the numbers of animals used in research during the last year are published in the table below.

The figures are part of the annual statistical returns required by the Home Office of all Project Licence Holders. These statistics are incorporated into a collection of national statistics published annually to inform the development of policies on animal use in scientific work and to inform the scientific community, animal welfare organisations and the general public.

The majority of mice and Xenopus (frogs) we use are genetically altered animals that have been modified either to have a similar mutation to that found in a human genetic disease or to allow a developmental process or disease to be followed in living animals non-invasively (for example fluorescent heart muscle). The majority of these animals show no clinical signs of pain or distress and are indistinguishable in their daily appearance from normal non-genetically altered animals. This is why they are such useful models for scientific investigations.

Procedure groups explained

The table below breaks down animal numbers into five groups of procedures, as follows:

1. Sub-threshold

These are procedures that are less painful to the animals than an injection, such as breeding non-harmful genetically altered animals. We do this as part of our research into degenerative brain disease and muscular dystrophy. We use these results to identify new potential drug targets for treating such diseases in the longer term.

2. Mild

Most of these procedures are injections, such as introducing a potential drug into mice or inducing frogs to lay eggs. Our researchers making new models of human genetic diseases manipulate the genome of these animals.

3. Moderate

Most of these procedures involve stressing the animals, for example, by them spending a short time in a small space. One of the reasons that our scientists do this is to understand which mechanisms cause the brain to be damaged by stress.

4. Non-recovery

This is where we place animals under general anaesthetic and the experiment does not require them to recover. Therefore, to prevent them suffering, we kill them humanely before they regain consciousness.

5. Severe

At Portsmouth, we have no procedures that are pre-judged to be ‘severe’. Therefore, the only severe procedures are those that cause animals to die unexpectedly. We label these ‘severe’ by default.

If this happens, the animal gets an independent autopsy and the exact circumstances of the death are investigated. The Home Office then gets a report.


  Procedure groups  
Type of animal Sub-threshold Non-recovery Mild Moderate Severe Totals
Mouse 1950 83 551 106 0 2690
Xenopus 2193 0 712 50 7 2962
Totals 4143 83 1263 156 7 5652