Other factors play a role too, she says. "For example, if a senior professor in academia has spent his entire career developing experimental techniques on monkeys' brains and young researchers now tell him 'actually we don't need to do this, we can do it on a computer', it undermines his approach."
But just as important as reducing the numbers of animals used, adds Wolfensohn, is “to make sure they are being used in the best way and that their welfare is maximised, so as to get the best quality results, to make sure they are not wasted.”
Overall, pressure to limit the use of animals in research – either for financial, scientific or moral reasons – is rising. Meanwhile, the use of animals in many areas of life-science research is on the decline, experts note, even if genetic work in mice is still keeping numbers up. “I think this is temporary,” says Andrew Rowan, President and Chief Executive Officer of animal protection group Humane Society International. “I think it is going to start going down again as we improve our technologies.” How soon this might happen is too difficult to tell.