Each year around this time, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes available its Research Facility Annual Summary Reports. These annual reports summarize how many Animal Welfare Act-covered animals were used in research during the prior year and specify the numbers of animals used in experiments of differing pain levels, ranging from procedures involving no pain to painful procedures in which no pain relief was administered. This year, however, the animal use reports have not been released.
Upon further investigation, NAVS staff found that not only were this year’s reports not available, but that the USDA had, without any notice, also removed all of the previous reports that had been posted on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website.
The “Research Facility Annual Summary Reports” link now instructs research facilities how to submit annual report data online — but none of the “Animal Usage by Fiscal Year” reports are available.
Considering that the current level of record keeping and reporting on the use of animals in research, teaching and testing in the U.S. is already inferior to methods used elsewhere in the world, we were surprised that the little information that was publicly available on animal research has been removed.
This is not the first time that APHIS has unexpectedly removed animal research information from its website. You may recall that in 2017, the USDA faced extensive backlash for removing key information pertaining to the use of animals in research from its website, including inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, enforcement records and its Animal Care Information System Search tool. But with pushback from animal welfare activists like yourself, access to some of that data has been restored over time.
We reached out to APHIS officials about the latest missing data, and they confirmed that the reports are missing from the website, indicating only that the reports are being “audited.” They were not able to specify when the data would be restored.
NAVS will continue our efforts to restore this data as well as request that additional data be collected and reported so that there is more transparency about animal research in the U.S.
You can help us demand transparency from the USDA. Transparency surrounding animal use directly impacts our animal welfare efforts, as understanding trends in animal use can help us better gauge whether efforts to refine, reduce and replace the use of animals in research, safety testing and education are effective.
Call the USDA Animal Care office at 1-970-494-7478 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask that access to Animal Usage by Fiscal Year Annual Reports be restored and for the latest data on 2018 animal use to be released.
Help NAVS continue to fight for transparency in animal research and to fund the development of animal-free alternatives to reduce animal experimentation by making a donation today.