More than 70 medical bodies in Britain have signed a pledge to be more open about their use of animals in scientific experiments.

Companies including Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca signed the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, which was published today.

The publication followed lengthy negotiations between scientists, universities, medical charities, drug firms, journalists and members of the public.

It covers activities in the UK only, but was signed by organisations based in Britain and overseas.

“This widespread support for openness demonstrates the change in attitude we have seen from the life science sector over the last few years”, said Geoff Watts who chaired the steering group that drew up the agreement.

An Ipsos MORI poll conducted in 2012 found almost 80% of those surveyed agreed with the use of animals in scientific research for medical purposes and / or in good welfare conditions

Many also said they would like to know more about what goes on in laboratories where animal experiments are conducted.              

4.11 million experiments were carried out on animals in Britain in 2012, the vast majority of them (74%) on mice.

The concordat obliges signatories to "be clear about when, how and why" animals are used, and enhance communications with the media and the public about such work.             

Scientists use animals in medical, veterinary and basic research, to develop medicines and other treatments for humans and animals and to understand biological processes.

New medical treatments are required by law in Britain to be tested on animals before being used for human trials.

Regulatory work, such as testing batches of drugs, also requires animal screening in order to protect patients.