NAVS review of new government report details increase in animal use

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Last week, NAVS received a long-awaited report from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that revealed a disturbing trend: the overall number of Animal Welfare Act (AWA)-covered animals used by USDA licensees increased from 2018 to 2019, the most recent year for which animal use statistics are available.

The report shows that the number of AWA-covered animals used for research, testing, teaching and experimentation by USDA licensees increased by 2.2% from 2018 to 2019. The total number of AWA-covered animals used in the U.S. in 2019 was 797,546, compared to 780,070 in 2018—an increase of 17,476 animals. 

This uptick in animal use stemmed primarily from an increased use of hamsters (up 22.0%), sheep (up 7.3%), rabbits (up 6.6%), guinea pigs (up 6.2%), and pigs (up 1.4%). 

Use of several species of lab animals decreased during this time frame, including nonhuman primates (down 3.6%), cats (down 1.9%) and dogs (down 1.5%).  Use of “all other covered species,” a vague grouping which includes the AWA-covered animals not mentioned in the categories previously listed, decreased the most (down 9.6%). 

It is important to note that these numbers are from 2019. Therefore, they do not include animal use that took place as a result of research into the COVID-19 virus. As we have noted earlier, many researchers used the pandemic as an excuse to ramp up their animal use, claiming they were facing a “shortage” of certain animals—in particular, nonhuman primates. This claim is made despite the fact that tens of thousands of primates are held in laboratories, but not used, each year. Some in the scientific community have taken things even further, going so far as to propose establishing a “stockpile” of monkeys to hold in reserve. NAVS has, and will continue to, fight this appalling recommendation

In addition, these statistics, as troubling as they are, represent an incomplete picture of animal use in this country, as the U.S. annual report does not account for the estimated 95% of all animals used in research, including mice and rats. And, importantly, the report makes no mention of how animals are being used in this country (that is, the purpose of the research).  More meaningful information on animal use is essential not only to improving animal welfare, but to promoting humane, human-relevant advancements in science that will allow researchers to move away from flawed animal models and toward solutions that can better address human health conditions.


APHIS Research Facility Annual Reports