MORE than 200,000 animals have been killed by Oxford University after research, new figures show.

A total of 29 monkeys, 2,040 reptiles, 41 ferrets, 18 pigs and 75 guinea pigs were among the animals destroyed.

Rodents such as 192,793 mice and 3,074 rats were also killed as part of tests that the university said were vital to medical research.

Figures provided under the Freedom of Information Act show 202,160 were killed in 2012.

Student newspaper The Tab, which obtained the figures, said this put Oxford second to the University of Edinburgh, which was responsible for 226,341 animal deaths.

An animal rights group said the figures were “unacceptably high”. A university spokesman, however, said animals are “killed humanely” at the end of research projects licensed by the Home Office.

He said: “There is overwhelming scientific consensus worldwide that animal research is still essential for medical progress.

“Research on animals has contributed to almost every medical advance of the last century. Without animal research, medicine as we know it today wouldn’t exist.”

Most animals killed are genetically modified mice bred to mirror changes found in humans for researchers to study genes and other issues.

This had led to research into treatments for diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy, he said.

Procedures include using MRI scans on animals, training them to go through a maze, taking blood and receiving medication.

He said the university is a world-leading centre that had “been at the forefront of innovative and life-saving science”.

Research included putting ear plugs into young ferrets, which have similar hearing systems to humans, to research the hearing condition glue ear in children.

In June the university said this “could point to new therapies for glue ear and has implications for the design of hearing aid devices”.

But Ben Williamson, of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said: “These universities need to rethink their policies regarding animal use and align themselves with public opinion, social progress and 21st-century scientific pursuits if they are to stay ahead of the curve.

“Studying any species other than humans while investigating human diseases is studying the wrong species. More than 90 per cent of drugs that pass animal tests fail in human trials.”

Michelle Thew, chief executive for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: “The use of animals in research in the UK, in particular within universities, is unacceptably high and it is disappointing to see that researchers at Oxford University contributed to this so heavily over the last year with their use of over 202,000 animals in experimentation, including non-human primates.

“Humane alternatives already exist so Oxford University should be leading the field in pioneering alternatives to animal experimentation, instead of causing more suffering and distress.”

The university has long attracted criticism from campaigners over the issue.

In 2010, Mel Broughton, 50, was jailed for 10 years for conspiracy to commit arson over two bomb attacks in protest at the building of the £20m animal testing laboratory in South Parks Road.