Vivisection's missing millions

As many as 150 million animals could be used in laboratory experiments each year around the globe, a

For the first time ever, a statistical analysis of global animal research figures has been produced and it suggests that a staggering 115 million animals could be used every year in laboratory experiments around the world. In fact the figure could be as high as 150 million animals, as the currently available data leaves so many animals unaccounted for.

Laboratory experimentation is surely one of the most controversial ways in which animals are exploited by humans, generating significant debate around the world amongst the general public, politicians and the scientific community. So it is hard to believe that up until now, there has never been a scientifically robust estimate of global figures.

Without publicly accessible statistics on at least the number of animals used in research in each country, it is impossible for there to be a truly open and informed public debate. How can animal advocacy groups or politicians hold the government to account when even basic information about the number of animals suffering is unavailable?

And yet despite the important need for this data, not to mention the moral imperative to collate it, it has been left to animal advocacy groups such as my own to produce the analysis. The Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research collaborated with the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and our conclusions have just been published in the international journal ATLA.

As well as the astounding headline figure that should give us all pause for thought, one of the most shocking facts to be revealed is the number of countries – 79 per cent - that simply don’t record how many animals they experiment on. That means that millions of animals are suffering in laboratories every year, subjected to experiments that have the potential to cause them physical and mental distress and that will eventually take their lives, and yet they are missing from official records as if they never existed at all.

Last month the Home Office published statistics for Britain's own animal research. According to our government, just over three million animals were used in experiments in 2007. That's a staggering statistic in itself, however it's not the whole story because it excludes animals killed because they are considered surplus to requirements or those specifically killed to harvest their organs and tissues for research.

There is no justification for this exclusion. These are still sentient animals who spend their entire lives in the unnatural, sterile environment of the laboratory. The propensity for animals to suffer purely as a result of laboratory confinement is well documented. They can be denied all natural light, exposed to excessive noise and human handling, overcrowding, isolation, insufficient environmental enrichment. We cannot be in any doubt that at the very least these animals deserve to be acknowledged. We calculate that if they were, the Home Office's official figure of just over three million animals would increase to five million.

Now that we finally have a sobering global estimate, it is essential that governments around the world take action. As a first step, those countries without official data - China, Brazil, India, South Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Russia and others - must commit to making such information available to their citizens. Countries such as Britain and the United States (which currently excludes a staggering estimated 93 per cent of animals used from its official records) must ensure that all animals who live and die for the research industry are counted.

Only then can we know the true scale of laboratory animal suffering and measure efforts by our governments to reduce and replace those animals with advanced non-animal techniques.

Wendy Higgins, Communications Director, Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research

Show Hide image

The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times