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Animals Used in Research

Despite growing recognition of the inadequacies of animal models and growing acceptance of alternative methods, animals continue to be used in research, testing and teaching in the United States every year. And most alarming, published studies on animal experimentation suggest that labs are using more and more animals, due to the increasing use of mice, primarily those that have been genetically engineered. Because mice, as well as rats, birds and fish, are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act, the actual number of animals used in research is, at best, an informed guess. A study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (February 2015) found that from 1997 to 2012, the total number of animals used in research in laboratory settings increased by 73%, but due to inadequacies in recordkeeping on the use of animals in experimentation, the number may be even higher.

Data collected and reported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), however, suggests that the number of animals used in research has been decreasing. In 2016, they reported that a total of 820,812 animals were used for scientific purposes. As just noted, mice, rats, birds and fish, who are estimated to comprise more than 95% of all animals used in research, were not included. Although lack of transparency on animal use in this country prevents us from understanding the full scope of the use of animals in experimentation, it is important to note that 2015 marked the lowest number of Animal Welfare Act-covered animals used in research since the USDA began collecting such statistics in 1973.

Click on an animal below to learn more about its use in research.