Britain has announced it would further intensify steps to reduce animal use in laboratory research.
"This is about the scientific community doing its best whenever possible to reduce and replace the use of animals. This is not about a numerical target," said British science minister David Willetts.
AdvertisementThe government was absolutely committed to the so-called 3Rs of reducing, replacing and refining the use of animals.
He, however, emphasised that this might not mean a reduction in the overall number of scientific procedures involving animals.
According to a latest report in the journal Nature, the number of scientific procedures involving animals in Britain reached a peak of around 5.5 million in the 1970s before dropping to just over 2.5 million in 2000.
Since then, however, it has increased to more than 4 million in 2012 despite the government's promise in 2010 to "work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research".
According to Norman Baker, the Home Office minister responsible for animal research, there was no other country doing as much as the UK to reduce the use of lab animals.
UK animal-rights groups, however, criticised the announcement.
The Nottingham-based Fund for the Replacement of Animals In Medical Experiments was quoted as saying that it was disappointed by the lack of targets.
According to the London-based British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, the announcement showed the government was abandoning its 2010 pledge.
The government, however, cautioned that the increase in animal-research procedures seen in official statistics was mainly down to an increase in the breeding of genetically-modified animals.