Following the 2010 general election the coalition government made a pledge to reduce the number of animals used in scientific research.

Four years on and the number is showing no sign of falling.

Four million procedures were carried out on animals in 2013 and a steady increase in animal testing has been recorded since 1995.

Testing cosmetic products on animals is banned throughout the European Union but is still allowed if it’s in the name of medical research.

Critics argue that testing medicine and treatments on animals is not and has never been the answer, while some scientists argue that animal testing is the only way to create products that are safe for humans to use.

Dr Katie Taylor from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection says: "It’s very difficult because animals aren’t the answer and for us that’s enough. All we need to know is that animal testing is not only cruel and shows humans in a very bad light, but it’s not working.

Home Office statistics show that since 1995 the number of animals used in scientific research has risen steadily.

They say this is because many new scientific research areas have a need for animals in a host of new experiments.

Dr Elisabeth Harley is from the organisation Understanding Animal Research. She explained to VoR some of the ways animal research is helping fight against illness:

"Animal research has been essential to delivering a vast range of medical treatments. Everything from the polio vaccine, insulin for diabetics, anesthetics, penicillin, antiretroviral drugs and deep brain stimulation."

Of the four million procedures carried out on animals, 75 percent were on mice, while the other 25 percent was made up from other animals such as fish, cattle and sheep.

Despite the number of procedures, however, there was a slight decline in the number of animals being used overall, 15,000 fewer than 2012.

This is because in some cases scientists used the same animal more than once.

Dr Harley  if she thought 4.12 million procedures on animals was a high number in her opinion.

"It is a high number but we should be clear about the important role animal research has playe din our past presetn and future development of medicine. The main justification is the enormous array of medical treatments that we have now thanks to it."

Anti-animal testing campaigners and scientists have been at loggerheads over the use of animals in science for centuries and the topic has always proven a controversial topic in public debate.

Some say it is vital if humans are to learn more about how to combat illness, while others argue it is inhumane and often cruel.

So what is the perception of animal testing at the moment?

Dr Harley says public support is on the rise and that: "The general public trusts scientists to conduct research on their behalf in a way that meets the high welfare standards required by the UK regulatory system."

Dr Taylor brings a different perspective, saying that: "There is a perception among the British public that animal testing no longer occurs - perhaps because the campaign against the use of animal testing in cosmetics was too successful and people are persuaded it doesn't happen any more. The research community has just carried on as they will."

Of the total 4.12 million scientific tests to take place on animals last year 49 percent were carried out in universities while 26 per cent took place within commercial organisations.

The NHS and other public bodies made up another significant 16 percent.

The number of tests on animals has steadily increased over the past 20 years.

It would appear that as the number of challenging diseases taken on by scientists increases so too does their need for more animals to test on.

(VoR)