August 24 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the first federal recognition of animals as sentient beings worthy of protection.
Though the passage of the AWA was seen as a positive step by many in 1966, others in the animal protection community—including NAVS—opposed its passage, as it sanctioned the use of animals for research while providing them with only minimal protections.
Over the years there have been many changes made to the AWA, some positive and some negative. Among its most significant failures has been the decision to exclude mice, rats and birds bred for research from all protections and accountability. These animals represent the vast majority of those used in science—more than 98%, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
A full accounting of all animals and how they are used will aid in understanding animal use trends. This, in turn, will reveal areas that should be prioritized for the development of smarter, human-relevant alternatives, as well as areas where available alternatives are not being used to their full potential.
While NAVS holds that no animal should be exploited in the name of science, amending the Animal Welfare Act to include protections for all animals would be a step in the right direction.