The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has just released its most current statistics on the number of animals used for research, testing, teaching and experimentation by USDA licensees—and revealed a promising trend. The U.S. reported a reduction of 56,708 animals from 2013 to 2014, representing a6% decrease in animal use. The total number of Animal Welfare Act-covered animals used in experimentation and teaching in the U.S. last year was 834,453 compared to 891,161 in 2013. This is the lowest number of animals used on record.
Use of nearly every category of animal decreased over the past year. Use of pigs decreased the most (-19%), followed by other farm animals (-17%), cats (-13%), dogs (-12%), guinea pigs (-11%), hamsters (-11%), rabbits (-11%), sheep (-11%) and nonhuman primates (-10%). The only category that demonstrated an increase was “all other covered species,” a vague category including the AWA-covered animals not mentioned in the categories previously listed. The number of animals used in this category, which includes animals such as ferrets and voles among many others, increased by 25%.
The report also revealed that approximately 57% of animals were used in procedures in which no pain was involved; 34% in painful procedures in which pain drugs were administered; and 9% in painful procedures in which pain drugs were not administered, which reflects a very similar pattern in animal use observed last year.
While we are pleased that APHIS has released these new statistics on animal use, it is important to point out that these statistics represent a very incomplete picture of animal use in this country, and the report is far inferior to reports on animal use generated by other countries. First, the U.S. annual report does not account for the estimated 95% of all animals used in research, including mice and rats. And importantly, the report makes no mention of how animals are being used in this country (i.e. the purpose of the research).
More meaningful information on animal use is essential to improving animal welfare and promoting advancements in science. Increasing transparency by providing this basic information in annual reports would enable a constructive discussion on how well the 3R’s—reduction, refinement and replacement—of animal use are being implemented in this country.
As you know, NAVS has filed a petition for rulemaking asking APHIS to improve the quality of its annual reports. We have asked that APHIS amend its requirements for recordkeeping and reporting on the use of animals to include more detailed information regarding the specific purposes for which animals are being used in this country. APHIS is soliciting comments on our petition, and we need your help. Please consider submitting comments asking APHIS to amend it regulations, using some talking points you can find here. The deadline to comment is August 24, 2015.
NAVS is encouraged to learn that the number of AWA-covered animals used in research, testing and teaching has declined since last year. However, we will continue to request more transparency from APHIS regarding how animals are actually being used in order to improve the welfare and replace the use of animals used in research, teaching and testing.
Dr. Pam Osenkowski, Director of Science Programs
Research Facility Annual Reports
Each USDA-registered research facility is required by the Animal Welfare Act to submit an Annual Report (APHIS Form 7023) that documents its use of animals for research, testing, teaching and/or experimentation.
For more information see: APHIS