RABBITS, birds and guinea pigs were among 4,162 live animals used in research experiments at University College Cork (UCC) last year.
The animals were sourced through specialist suppliers based in Ireland, the UK and the United States at a cost of almost €200,000, while a further €3,000 was paid to dispose of the animals' carcasses.
All animals used in experiments at UCC are euthanised by qualified personnel in accordance with relevant legislation, the University has said.
The figures emerge following the revelation last week that nearly 110,000 live animals were used for research purposes at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) during the past five years.
This prompted criticism from animal-welfare groups and the Irish novelist, John Banville, who branded the use of live animals in university experiments as "absolutely disgraceful" during an interview on RTÉ Radio's Liveline.
"If the animals don't suffer, why don't [the researchers] volunteer themselves? It would be much better to have a human being to experiment on than an animal," he said.
"We are the most highly evolved species on the planet. It is our duty, therefore, to take care of less-evolved species."
The Irish Anti-Vivisection Society (IAVS) has also criticised the use of live animals in experiments at UCC and has called for stricter government regulation of the practice.
"The IAVS is appalled that UCC is failing to address the pain and death it causes to animals, with their death toll remaining broadly static at 4,000 to 4,500 a year," said IAVS Chairperson Yvonne Smalley.
"The scientific consensus is moving on, with increasing recognition that experiments on animals are limited and often misleading regarding human health and safety.
"The IAVS demands proper regulation from [the authorities] - they need to show some leadership, stop rubber-stamping these cruel practices and start challenging these institutions on behalf of the public and defenceless animals," she added.
Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 4,162 live animals were used in research by UCC during 2016. These included 3,732 mice, 377 rats, 25 pigs, three rabbits, five birds, and 20 guinea pigs.
The procurement of these animals cost the University a total of €192,351 last year; while the disposal of animal carcasses following experimentation cost a further €3,090.
UCC Vice President for Research and Innovation Professor Anita R Maguire said in a statement that alternatives to live-animal experiments are widely used by the University, but the use of animals had produced beneficial results that could not otherwise be achieved.
"For example, the use of state-of-the-art in vivo imaging techniques has resulted in the development of successful methods for the delivery of targeted therapeutics and the use of non-invasive interventions and devices to alleviate chronic disease symptoms and reduce morbidity," she said.
Projects for which live animals are used at UCC include research in areas such as irritable bowel syndrome, obstetrics and gynaecology, anxiety and depression, and cardiovascular disease.