Nearly 122,000 animals were used in tests at six of the country’s top universities over a three-year period.
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information show Trinity College used the most animals for tests from 2012 to 2014, followed by University College Cork and NUI Galway.
The universities said they had received no complaints about the volume of tests and research and all stressed no cosmetic testing was carried out on animals, which is banned under EU law.
Trinity College Dublin used 26,738 animals in biomedical experiments in 2012, 23,993 in 2013 and 26,839 in 2014. Across the three years 63,887 mice were used, as were rats, a handful of rabbits and 150 zebra fish and 47 pigs.
“Animal studies are conducted only when they will contribute to the advancement of knowledge that is likely to lead to the improvement of the health and welfare of animals and human beings,” a spokesperson for TCD said.
The university said the justification of the use of animals in biomedical research was under constant review, and that all ethical standards were met and the number of animals used minimised, with all the animals cared for under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon and trained technical staff.
It said investigations in which animals were used included research into Alzheimhers disease, genetics and immunological studies.
NUI Galway bought 13,412 animals for research purposes in the three years from 2012 to 2014, including frogs, rabbits and fish, as well as rats and mice.
In its response NUIG said: “Research with animals is undertaken only when the researchers clearly demonstrate that all in vitro [test tube] alternatives have been exhausted as required by current legislation and also past legislation.”
The research is in areas such as neurological and cardiovascular conditions.
University College Dublin purchased 3,993 animals for primary medical and scientific research in 2012.
According to UCD: “All work done in UCD units is medical and scientific research that can be translated to the human experience. The aim of all work done in the units is to add benefit to human health and scientific knowledge.”
University College Cork used 8,202 animals in the academic year 2011/12, including 205 pigs. It used 5,120 animals in 2012/13, and 4,535 animals the following year.
A UCC spokesperson said all testing is compliant with regulations and overseen by an animal welfare body. They said “the use of animals in state-funded scientific research has produced beneficial results to human health that could not otherwise have been achieved”.
DCU has also seen a fall in the number of animals used in research, from 800 in 2012 — mostly mice, but including four domestic fowl — to 497 in 2013 and 467 in 2014.
NUI Maynooth used 3,605 animals for research purposes between 2012 and 2014, all rats and mice.
Cork Institute of Technology said it does not use animals in experiments.
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