More than 80,000 animals died in University of Sheffield testing last year - and this number is LOW compared with other research hubs

The University says some research cannot be done without using animals. Photo: Understanding Animal Research
The University says some research cannot be done without using animals. Photo: Understanding Animal Research
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The number of animals put down after being used for research at the University of Sheffield has increased to a total of 81,582 per year - but the research hub still records some of the lowest animal testing figures compared with other UK universities.

A breakdown of the figures shows that 59,564 fish and 21,294 mice made up the majority of animal deaths, with other species such as rabbits, pigs, rats, gerbils and birds accounting for the rest of the total.

The only animals tested that were not subsequently put down were 930 birds.

Despite the 22.7 per cent increase from 2014 to 2015 meaning 226 animals were put down per day last year, Sheffield’s scientists pride themselves on using a relatively low number of animals in tests compared with other UK universities.

Oxford University tested 2.74 times as many animals as Sheffield did, with Cambridge testing 2.19 times as many animals.

Other universities with far higher animal testing figures than Sheffield include Edinburgh, University College London and King’s College London.

Discoveries made by the University of Sheffields animal testing include a treatment to slow down the progression of Parkinsons disease. Photo: Understanding Animal Research

Discoveries made by the University of Sheffields animal testing include a treatment to slow down the progression of Parkinsons disease. Photo: Understanding Animal Research

Most animals tested and killed by the University of Sheffield suffered only mild or ‘sub-threshold’ harm as a result of the experiment, a Freedom of Information request made by the student media group, the Tab, revealed.

Year on year there was also a 73.1 per cent decrease in the number of ‘non-recovery’ animals - that is, those that do not regain consciousness after the procedure they have been used for- from 1,938 in 2014 to just 522 in 2015, the Tab’s request showed.

Recent examples of discoveries made possible by the University of Sheffield’s animal testing includes a treatment to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease, new treatments for epilepsy, breakthroughs in the search for adult brain stem cells and potential treatments for deafness.

The data for 2016 will not be gathered until next year - but a spokesperson from the University said the institute is currently undertaking ‘more biomedical research as part of a drive to increase our UK and international standing as a centre of research excellence.’

The spokesperson added: "This research contributes to ground-breaking developments in understanding and treating major diseases such as cancer, deafness, heart disease, Parkinson's and other neurological conditions which devastate millions of lives every year.

“Our scientists are fully committed to finding other alternatives to research which is currently dependent on animals."

The spokesperson also explained that ‘wherever possible’ the University uses species with the lowest neuro-physiological sensitivity - that is, those that feel the least pain, such as zebrafish.

A unique research initiative based in Sheffield helps to reduce the number of mice required for research while speeding up pioneering studies into ageing - the major risk factor for diseases such as Alzheimer's, arthritis and cancer.

The Shared Ageing Research Models (ShARM) initiative is the first of its kind.

ShARM’s Dr Adele Duran said: “We reduce the number of mice used in research primarily by maximising the amount of research we can do on a single mouse.”

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