Number of animals in research
Posted by: admin | February 11, 2009 | 0 Comments
One of the challenges for the laboratory animal community is to determine how many animals of each species are being utilized in research each year. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published their data for Fiscal Year 2007 . This type of data takes an enormous amount of time and resources to obtain and organize. Consequently, the last time the USDA published this type of data was in 2001. The question of the number of animals utilized in research comes up often and information and reports on this topic can be found on the Internet. However, when reading these reports, including the USDA report, it is imperative not to take them at face value. This is especially true for information regarding mice and rat usage since no one collects this information.
This topic was recently discussed on one of the scientific listservs, and the following questions concerning the available animal use data were raised by an expert in the field:
- What is the definition of the term "used" when referring to animals in research?
- Are these animals that are enrolled in experiments?
- Does this term include animals that are genotyped and culled for having the non-desirable genotype?
- Does this term include animals that are bred for research but then never used for any number of reasons?
- Does this term include animals used in long term studies, and are they counted each year they are in the study or only in the year they are placed in the study?
- Regarding mice and rats, the usage data usually states that they are 90%, 95%, or 99% of the total mammals used in research, but is there specific data to support these percentages?
- Within the last few years, utilization of zebra fish in research has been increasing. However, the data on this species is lacking since they, similar to mice and rats, are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act.
Despite these uncertainties, the overall accountability and reporting of numbers of animals used in research is improving, and more funding is being provided to obtain this data.
The challenge of determining the numbers of animals used in research exists not only in the United States but also internationally. This topic is brought up by the media in United Kingdom at least once a year:
Lab animal numbers continue trend
Written On: February 11th, 2009.
The number of animals used in UK labs for scientific experiments is now more than three million - a level not seen since the beginning of the 1990s. Home Office figures show that in 2007, all procedures in England, Wales and Scotland used 3.1 million animals. The year-on-year increase of 6% continues the recent upward trend driven mainly by the use of rodents in genetics experiments. Mice and rats constitute more than 80% of all animals used in laboratories. The remainder involve primarily fish, birds, and reptiles/amphibians. Dogs, cats, horses and non-human primates receive special protection under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. These were used in less than 1% of all procedures. Most procedures are for research and drug development; safety testing accounts for much of the rest. Animal welfare groups criticized what amounts to the sixth yearly rise in succession, but scientists said the work was necessary if society wanted to find ever more effective treatments for debilitating diseases. The number of animals used in lab experiments peaked in the 1970s with more than five million procedures carried out annually.
EU urged to review animal testing
Written On: February 11th, 2009.
A world expert on primates, Dr Jane Goodall, has urged Europe to find alternatives to experiments on animals.
Speaking in Brussels, Dr Goodall called for work on "new ways of testing and experimenting that will not involve the use of live, sentient beings". An EU directive on the protection of animals used for research dates back to 1986 and is due to be revised. An estimated 11 million animals are used in experiments in the EU annually. The practice is highly regulated. Many scientists argue that experiments on animals are vital in the development of treatments for crippling human diseases and conditions.