EU statistics show Decline in Animal Research Numbers

The EU has just put up its Seventh statistical report (and additional detailed stats), which provides the  2011 statistics of the numbers of animals used in research (though France provided 2010 stats). It shows that since 2008 (the sixth report), the number of animals has dropped over 4%, from 12 million down to 11.5 million animals (11,481,521 to be exact).

The exact reason for this drop in the number of animals used is hard to pinpoint, however it is likely that the recession and subsequent economic stagnation across much of the EU may have reduced the amount of biomedical research (animal and non-animal) being conducted – in countries where the biomedical funding has risen, such as the UK, the numbers of animals in research has risen. Increasing work and funding into the 3Rs is also helping scientists find ways to reduce and replace (and refine) some animal research.

The stats do provide a breakdown according to species (see pages 7-10). Mice, rats, fish, amphibians and reptiles together account for over 85% of research animals. Dogs and cats accounted for 0.03% and 0.16% respectively (and are included within the 0.25% of Carnivores used in research). Primates account for 0.05% of animals – primate use was also down by one third from the 2011 stats. Great apes are not used in the EU.

Breakdown of the percentages of different species of animals used in research across the EU in 2011

Breakdown of the percentages of different species of animals used in research across the EU in 2011

There was a drop in the number of most animal species used, notably: 22-24% falls in the numbers of rats, guinea pigs and hamsters, a 9% drop in the number of cats, and 16% drop in the number of dogs used. Even the numbers of mice fell by 120,000. The main rise came from an increase in the number of fish used from 1.09 million to 1.40 million (a 29% rise).

EU animal research table

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We can see how this breaks down among EU member states (Note: these statistics did not regard the breeding of a genetically altered animal (GAA) as a procedure to be counted, this will account for discrepancies between these numbers and those provided some member states e.g. the UK reports 3.7 million animals were used in 2011 including breeding. Future statistical reports should include breeding animals). France, Germany and the UK have the highest number of animals in research – they are also the three largest EU economies.

EU member state research 2011

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Clear reporting of the numbers of animals used in research is an important step in openness.

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