Mark Prigg, Science and Technology Correspondent 21.07.09 The number of animal experiments carried out in Britain rose by 14 per cent last year, government figures show. The Home Office announced today that just under 3.7 million scientific procedures were started in 2008, a rise of 454,000 on 2007 and the highest since 1998. Rodents accounted for 77 per cent of the experiments. Tests on primates rose by 16 per cent and more fish, mice, amphibians, pigs, sheep and turkeys were used. However, less than one per cent of procedures involved primates, dogs, cats or horses. Home Office minister Lord West today defended the rise, claiming it was necessary to improve healthcare. We are proud to have one of the highest standards of animal protection in the world and we are determined to keep it that way, he said. Advances with non-animal test methods continue to be made, but at present licensed animal use remains essential to develop improved healthcare technologies. The Government also highlighted the experiments' value to the NHS. Home Office minister Joan Ryan said: Animal research and testing has saved hundreds of millions of lives worldwide, and is vital to our NHS. Animal campaigners reacted angrily to the figures. Sadly, it's no surprise that numbers have gone up again, said Alistair Currie of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. This Government has no grasp of the problem of animal experimentation and no strategy to bring numbers down. Poorva Joshipura of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said: There is a very real need not only to stop cruelty, but to move away from old-fashioned animal tests.