The state agency charged with attracting overseas investment to this country has said it does not specifically seek out investment from companies which engage in animal testing, despite huge rises in the number of animals tested on here last year.

Asked if it enquires of companies which are considering investing in this country whether they plan to engage in animal testing, a spokesman for the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) said such questions "really don't apply".

This was equally true when it came to providing specific assurances companies will be granted licences to engage in such testing here, he suggested, as the "overwhelming majority of our Lifescience companies manufacture products that have passed testing and are approved for use".

"There has been no significant increase in such testing within the IDA's portfolio of companies," the spokesman said. "There has been no policy to seek out such investment and we haven't targeted such companies."

The IDA's comments come amid concerns by animal-welfare campaigners that Ireland is becoming a centre for animal testing. Government figures published by the Sunday Tribune last week reveal that over 112,800 animals were used in scientific experiments in Ireland last year, almost double the number used during the previous year.

The Irish Antivivisection Society (IAVS) noted that six new commercial companies have been licensed to experiment on animals in the last number of years, bringing the total number to nine.

Its spokeswoman Yvonne Smalley called on the IDA to bring pharmaceutical companies to Ireland who use only the latest "non-animal technologies".