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 in 2016, and the data is disappointing.
While the number of Animal Welfare Act (AWA)-covered animals had been steadily decreasing over the years, the 2016 Research Facility Annual Report revealed a 6.9% increase in animal use compared to 2015. The total number of AWA-covered animals used in experimentation and teaching in the U.S. in 2016 was 820,812 compared to 767,622 in 2015.
While a decrease in animal use was observed for dogs (-0.2%), cats (-5.2%) and “other farm animals” (-25.9%), which excludes pigs and sheep, the report revealed an increase in usage of animals from many other categories.
The largest increase (+24.1%) in animal use was observed in the “all other covered species” category, a catch-all group including AWA-covered animals not individually listed, followed by an increase in the use of primates (+14.9%), sheep (14.2%), pigs (8.1%), guinea pigs (+6.0%), hamsters (+4.3%) and rabbits (0.8%).
The report also revealed that approximately 61% of animals were used in procedures in which no pain was involved, 30% in painful procedures in which pain drugs were administered, and 9% in painful procedures in which pain drugs were not administered. This reflects a very similar pattern in animal use observed over the last several years.
It is important to note that these statistics offer an incomplete picture of animal use in this country as they omit animals that are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act—the great majority of animals used in research, including mice, rats, birds and fish, which are estimated to account for about 95% of animals used. The data also fails to provide the public with answers to very basic questions, including how animals are being used in this country (i.e. the purpose of the research).
While we are thankful that APHIS has made the most recent statistics publicly available, we are disappointed to learn that the total number of AWA-covered animals used in research, testing and teaching has increased since last year.
In addition, much U.S. government animal use data is still being withheld from public view, as a result of the sudden removal, earlier this year, of APHIS’ searchable online database. NAVS is committed to increasing transparency from the U.S. government on issues related to their use of animals in science.
Join us in demanding that the USDA restore APHIS’ searchable online animal use database today.