European Animal Use Report Should be Model for U.S.
NAVS has long advocated for increased transparency and accountability regarding animal use by scientists in the United States. Specifically, we have, for many years, asked the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to model its collection and reporting of animal use after that of the European Union, which paints a clearer picture of animal use than the U.S. This, in turn, supports the advancement of better science.
The latest EU animal use report, covering the years 2015-2017, was published last month. The report shows that 9.39 million animals were used in 2017. This is down roughly 200,000 from the 9.59 million animals that were used in 2015.
Beyond the raw numbers, however, the EU report again demonstrates why the U.S. should adopt this method of collecting and reporting animal use information.
Importantly, the EU collects data on lab animals that are most commonly experimented on, like mice, rats, fish and birds. Of the animals used for research and testing in the EU in 2017, 61% were mice, 13% were fish, 12% were rats, and 6% were birds. In total, these animals accounted for 92% of all animals used for experimentation in the EU. The U.S., in contrast, does not even consider mice, fish, rats and birds to be “animals” for reporting purposes, and therefore does not include them in its annual animal use numbers, meaning that the number of these animals actually used is all but unknown.
The EU report also details the purposes for which animals are used in research. It shows that 45% of animals were used in basic research, 23% for translational and applied research, 23% for regulatory use, 5% for the routine manufacture of medical products, and 4% for “other purposes.” This is yet another critical piece of information that is withheld from the public in the U.S.
A European Commission spokesperson noted that detailed data on animal use “allow us to identify far more effectively where best to target resources to help reduce the number and suffering of animals”— which is precisely why NAVS feels that it is a model that the U.S. should adopt.
Reliable statistics on how many animals are used in research, testing, teaching and experimentation, as well as the purpose of their use in experiments, is necessary for a constructive discussion on efforts needed to develop alternatives and to reduce animal use in our country.
Public pressure by animal advocates led the U.S. Congress to require the online restoration of previously-deleted APHIS animal use data. NAVS will continue to put pressure on APHIS to expand its reporting and bring the U.S. up to the standards of EU reporting.
Abbott, A. “Animal-research data show effects of EU’s tough regulations,” Nature, February 12, 2020.
European Commission, “2019 report on the statistics on the use of animals for scientific purposes in the Member States of the European Union in 2015-17.”