Posted by Monica Engebretson on 3rd December 2018
The US must do more to replace the use of animals in laboratories
USDA stats show number of dogs and primates used in US experiments on the increase
Every year over 115 million animals (1) are used in experiments around the world and the United States is estimated to be the world’s largest user. In 2017, the US laboratories reported that 792,168 Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulated animals were used in experiments according to the latest statistics released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the number of ‘federally regulated animals’* used in US laboratories (2) [this number does not include the majority of animals used in experiments as birds, rats, and mice bred for use in research are not counted or covered under the US Animal Welfare Act.]
While this represents an overall reduction of 28,644 animals from 2016 numbers, the number of dogs and primates used in experiments actually increased - 64, 707 dogs and 75,825 primates were used in 2017; an increase of 3, 728 dogs and 4, 637 primates since the previous year.
The report also reveals that thousands of animals were used in “Category E” experiments in which no pain relief is provided. A total of 62,055 animals were used in these ‘maximum pain’ experiments in 2017. The most frequent victims of these experiments were hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits. 1,144 primates, 1,475 pigs, and 590 dogs were also used in these tests.
In addition to the shocking number of animals used in 2017, USDA data for 2018 reveals a sharp decline in enforcement of the Act (3). In 2017 the Agency initiated 205 cases and issued 157 warnings. In 2018, only 15 cases were initiated, and 39 warnings issued.
Cruelty Free International is worried that this is part of a worsening trend under the current administration to reduce transparency, accountability and enforcement animal protection regulations for animals used in laboratories.
Earlier this year, we spoke out against the agency’s proposal that would have redirect inspections of USDA-licenced facilities to private organisations which would have amounted to research laboratories self-policing.
In a written statement to the agency, Laura Alvarez, Science Advisor at Cruelty Free International wrote, “USDA inspections are one of the few ways in which animals in laboratories are protected from unnecessary suffering and for which some public transparency is provided. There is no substitute for a government-regulated inspection system, that should be unbiased, transparent, thorough and dedicated to animal welfare. In fact, instead of relaxing regulations on animal welfare, more effort should be made to bring US legislation on par with other countries where more ethical and robust systems are in place to ensure the protection of animals in laboratories is taken seriously.”
Thankfully the USDA abandoned this proposal, but as the 2018 enforcement records show the agency has apparently found other ways of shirking its responsibility to uphold the integrity of the Act.
Please join our action alert list to stay up to date on what you can do to help animals in US laboratories. See how many animals were used in cruel experiments in your state by clicking here.
USDA’s enforcement of animal welfare laws plummeted in 2018, agency figures show https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/10/18/usdas-enforcement-animal-welfare-laws-plummeted-agency-figures-show/?fbclid=IwAR0dPrg0ywNC_SJQGjcIEJw6hzT0p1Uf84T6TOle0Izahh0YU6RZhAslEXk&noredirect=on&utm_term=.4da398839ccb
(1) Taylor K, Gordon N, Langley G and Higgins W. (2008). Estimates for worldwide laboratory animal use in 2005. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, 36: 327-342.