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Professor Dylan Jones is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Biomedical and Life Sciences at Cardiff University.
He told ITV Cymru Wales that the university's animal research procedures are strictly regulated, 'certainly not cruel' and play an important part in establishing ways to alleviate human suffering.
He conceded that the institution would like to reduce the number of animals used, but said it would be 'some time' before scientists could rely solely on other methods of testing, as some remain 'unsophisticated and unreliable'.
Campaigners have gathered to protest against Cardiff University's record of experimentation on animals for research.
The most recent figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show that 51,826 animals were used for testing in the year 2011 - 43,912 of those were mice.
Campaign group Animal Aid, one of the organisers of the demonstration, has described recent cancer research involving genetically altering mice as 'agonisingly cruel and medically useless.'
Cardiff University says its research involving animals is 'aimed at the alleviation of human and veterinary disease' and is carried out in accordance with strict conditions.
It added the research specifically involving mice is intended to 'help alleviate the suffering of cancer in humans'.
Cardiff North MP Jonathan Evans said "we should be replacing experimentation on animals with as many alternatives as possible", and called for action to make steps in that direction.
He said "there should be much more done" by the research and the pharmaceutical industries "to ensure we cut down significantly on the number of animals that are used."
Protests will be held outside Cardiff University today, against the institution's record when it comes to experimenting on animals.
The most recent figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show that, in 2011, 51,826 animals were used for testing - 43,912 were mice.
Campaign group Animal Aid, one of the organisers of the demonstration, has described recent cancer research involving genetically altering mice as "agonisingly cruel and medically useless."
A petition against animal experimentation written by the other organisers, Cardiff Animal Network and Cardiff Animal Rights, gathered 2,000 signatures around in Cardiff in a day.