Author Archives: Tom

Israel provides animal research statistics for 2014

The 2014 statistics from the Israeli National Council for Animal Experimentation show a 13 percent increase in animals used, reports Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

The 340,330 animals used in experimentation in 2014 represent the highest animal use since 2007, the peak of animal experimentation in Israel. Rodents comprised the majority (84 percent) of the animals used for experiments, birds and fish came next with around 7% each, while larger mammals accounted for only 1.3 percent of the total. The number of mice used, 236,000, represents a 12 percent increase over the 2013 amount.

Animals used in research in Israel 2010-14

For the second year in a row, no dogs or cats were used as experimental subjects. More monkeys were used for experimentation than in previous years; however, the National Council for Animal Experimentation report notes that Israel, with a rehabilitation rate of 89 percent, ranks among the countries with the highest reintegration rates for monkeys.

Dogs cats monkeys used in Israel 2010-2014

Seven percent of the animals were fish, which represents a three-fold increase over the previous year. The report by the National Council for Animal Experimentation attributes this increase to a concerted effort to use the lowest animal on the “developmental scale” that is scientifically appropriate.

On the five point pain scale, 12 percent of experimental animals were exposed to the highest amount of pain and 19 percent were ranked in the lowest pain category. Strict supervision of the animals by veterinarians and unannounced laboratory inspections prevent unnecessary pain for the animals, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Medical and scientific research were the main uses for the animals, accounting for 46 and 45 percent, respectively. Testing new products and materials used eight percent of the animals, and one percent was used for teaching.

Transparent reports of animal use contribute to public education about animal research. Speaking of Research continues to report on these statistical reports as they come out, most recently the 2014 statistics for the United States and Ireland and the 2012 Canadian report.

Alyssa Ward

Does your institution talk about its animal research?

A position statement can help an institution be open and transparent about why and how it uses animals in its biomedical research. This can help pre-empt questions from the public or media, it can provide a basis for replying to news stories, and it shows its researchers that it is proud of the important work they do. For this reason we believe all institutions should have a public statement (see ours).

With the help of our readers we’ve been creating a list of the position statements. This list currently encompasses 146 research institutions including universities, pharmaceuticals, medical research charities and funding bodies.

Check if your institution is on the list

Country Number of web statements
Number of institutions doing animal research
Canada 4 More than 4
Germany 7 More than 7
Netherlands 1 More than 1
Switzerland 2 More than 2
United Kingdom 61 More than 61
United States 56 More than 56
International 15 More than 15

Clearly our list is incomplete (though to the UK’s credit, their list of web statements accounts for a significant proportion of institutions doing animal research). This is partly because our list is missing some existing statements, and partly because some institutions do not have a statement. We need your help to expand the list.

To that end, we’ve made a handy flow chart to help you work out what to do once you’ve checked if your institution is on our list.

Institutioinal positioin statementFind our article ‘What makes a good animal research statementhere. Also, take a look at some of these exemplary position statements and webpages about animal research:

Speaking of Research

New FBR website offers more information for public

With a slick new website, the Foundation or Biomedical Research (FBR) has made it easier than ever to access accurate scientific information on their website. FBR has worked for over 30 years to educate the public about the importance of science and animal research in efforts to improve the health of animals and humans alike; their new website represents another step along that path.

Foundatioin for Biomedical Research website

The new website layout provides easy access to information emphasizing the role of animals in scientific discoveries, such as the animal research behind the 25 most frequently prescribed drugs treating human diseases. The media center provides press releases and videos about the need for animals in research, including a press release about the public support for using non-human primates to develop an Ebola vaccine during the epidemic this past year. The page footer features other organizations that promote animal research, (including Speaking of Research!) and links to fact sheets, including those highlighting research using rodent models and non-human primates. With links to blog posts, education materials, and the @researchsaves twitter feed, FBR has provided their audience with easy access to information on the benefits of animal research. Great job!

Alyssa Ward

Canada Releases 2012 Animal Use Statistics

Earlier this month the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) released its report on the number of animals used in Canada for scientific purposes. The CCAC is an independent oversight body that oversees the ethical use of animals in research. They also develop guidelines and promote training programs to ensure that all individuals involved in animal research or welfare are properly trained before being allowed to work with the animals. The CCAC reports that in 2012, 2,889,009 animals were used for research, teaching and testing in Canada. This is down 444,680 animals, from 3,333,689 animals that were used in 2011. These numbers include all vertebrates and Cephalapods, but do not include invertebrates like fruit flies or nematode worms. Animals can be used in more than one protocol provided these additional protocols do not result in pain.

2012 Canadian Animal research and testing Graph

Mice (43.2%), fish (28.8%), rats (7.8%) and birds (6.6%) were the most common species, together accounting for 86% of animals used. These numbers represent a shift in the type of animal used, as fish have been the animal most frequently used by Canadian institutions for the past three years. The majority of animals (61%) were used in studies of a fundamental nature/basic research, representing 1,815,083 animals. There has been significant changes to the reporting methodology utilized to analyze the current data and the CCAC made the following statement with respect to the 2012, report:

“Due to these differences in data management and reporting, it is not possible to make accurate comparisons with CCAC PAU and CI data from previous years.”

2012 Canadian Research and Testing Table

More information about animal research in Canada can be found within the Speaking of Research Media Briefing Notes for Canada.

Michael

5 Minutes with an Animal Care Facility Coordinator

Richard Marble, an Animal Care Facility Coordinator at Ferris State University, is a dedicated and experienced Animal Technologist who takes his responsibility of caring for the animals in his care seriously.  Following a guest post (It’s All About the Animals) in which Richard wrote giving insight into what is it like being an animal facility manager, he agreed to do an interview with Speaking of Research member, Jazzminn Hembree.

Richard opened up about his responsibilities in caring for animal welfare, and how he oversees all activities taking place within the facility as he seeks to improve animal welfare.  Many improvements have occurred during his time in the field, such as changes in housing and environmental enrichment. Richard explains

Research is like an enigma. Even those of us in the field do not like utilizing animals for research, but until such time as they are no longer necessary- the passionate people in this field are going to go out of their way to give them the best life they can.

Watch the video as he discusses:

  • How he is responsible for Animal Welfare?
  • What improvements he has seen in animal welfare over the past 15 years?
  • How he factors the 3R’s (Reduce, Refine, Replace) into his daily activities?
  • How he thinks animal welfare will improve in the future?

Why People Are Wrong to Oppose the New UK Beagle Breeding Facility

This post was originally posted on Huffington Post UK’s website. It is reprinted with permission from both the author and the Huffington Post. The original hyperlinks which were stripped out of the HP article have been returned.

Where do medicines come from?

It’s not a question most of us bother with when we take advantage of the huge array of medical treatments available to us.

All modern medicine is built on the ‘basic research’ which allows us to understand our physiology, and the diseases we suffer. Much of this research has been done, and continues to be done, in animals. Had Mering and Minkowski not shown the causal link between the pancreas and diabetes in dogs, we might never have discovered insulin (much more work was conducted in dogs by Banting and Best who later won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin). Had Pasteur not shown how dogs could be vaccinated using weakened samples of the virus (made from rabbits), we would not have both the veterinary and human rabies vaccines.

Animals are also used to develop and refine medical techniques. Dogs played a key role in perfecting artery to vein blood transfusions, as well as showing that citrated blood could be safely transplanted (thus preventing the blood from clotting). More recently, 23 pet dogs with paralysing spinal injuries were able to regain some use of their rear legs thanks to a novel stem cell transplant treatment. This research had originally been done in rats, and last year was used to successfully treat a paralysed man in what could prove to be one of the biggest medical advances of the decade.

By law, animals must also be used to test the toxicity and safety of new drug compounds before they can be given to human volunteers. A pharmaceutical company will have used the findings of basic research studies to identify types of drugs which might be effective against certain diseases. They will then use a variety of non-animal tests – computer modelling, cell cultures and more – to identify the most promising drug candidates. Those compounds will then be tested in animals. If they are deemed safe enough, they may then be moved forward to human trials. It is testament to the effectiveness of animal safety tests that nobody has died in Phase I clinical trials in the UK for over 30 years (with only one badly conducted clinical trial causing severe harm in recent times).

Given public misconceptions on the issue, it is worth being clear and saying that in the UK, and across the rest of the EU, it is illegal to use animals to test cosmetic products or their ingredients. The UK ban came into force in 1998, one year after a ban on tobacco research using animals. The Government has also announced a ban on using animals for testing household products.

Graph - Milestones in Animal Research

So what about dogs?

Laboratory DogsDespite the examples used in this article, dogs are not used that much in research in the UK. They account for less than 0.1% of all animals used in the UK each year. This compares to the 98% of procedures which are conducted on mice, rats, fish or birds. In 2013 there were 3,554 dogs used in 4,779 procedures (down 30% from a decade ago). Due to special protections that exist for dogs, cats, primates and horses, researchers must justify to the Home Office why another species, such as a mouse, fish or sheep, cannot be used instead of a dog. The research must be approved by an ethical review board, who will work to ensure the implementation of the 3Rs (Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of animals in research). The researcher, the institution and the individual procedure must each be licensed by the Home Office. The video below, produced by Understanding Animal Research, shows dogs in a typical pharmaceutical laboratory in the UK.

So why a breeding facility?

Currently, around 20% of the dogs used in research in the UK are imported from abroad (those involved in 956 of the 4,779 procedures in 2013). This is because the UK breeding facilities cannot provide all the dogs used in the UK. These dogs have to endure long and potentially stressful flights from other countries. Surely it is better to breed them here in the UK, where we have some of the highest standards of laboratory animal welfare in the world and where our facilities can be easily monitored by the Animals in Science Regulation Unit inspectors? The new breeding facility offers animal welfare standards above and beyond those demanded by the Government. Dogs will be kept in socially housed groups in multi-level pens which can be joined together to create larger runs for the animals. All the animals will have toys and enrichment in their enclosures, and will interact with trained laboratory technicians every day. It is this sort of investment in animal welfare we, as an animal-loving nation, should embrace.

Petitioning the Government to reverse their decision on approving the beagle facility in Hull is misguided. It will not reverse our need to use animals in research, or even change the number of dogs used in the UK. What it will do is force another generation of puppies to take long flights from other countries, having been bred in older breeding facilities away from the UK inspectorate.

Animal research may not be something we want to think about when we take our medicines – but it is something necessary for those medicines to exist. Instead of trying to ban animal research, let’s instead make sure that if we do it, we do it to world-class standards.

Tom Holder

Director of Speaking of Research

Ireland releases 2014 animal research statistics

In our effort to build a comprehensive picture of animal research statistics worldwide, our latest post is on the recently released (permanent link) statistics for Ireland. These are compiled by the Health Products Regulatory Authority of Ireland (HPRA). These statistics are produced in accordance with EU Directive 2010/63 which regulates animal research across EU countries.

The restrictions and standards set by the Directive are expected to enhance animal welfare and ensure that animals are used in studies only when their use is  strongly justified and following independent assessment. The Directive firmly anchors in EU Legislation the 3Rs,  i.e. Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

The total number of animals used for the first time was 224,249 in 2014,  down almost 20% from 2013. The total number of procedures was slightly higher at 226,684. These numbers include all vertebrates and Cephalapods, but do not include invertebrates like fruit flies or nematode worms.

Unlike countries, like the UK and US, basic research is a much smaller portion of overall research (15%) in Ireland whereas ‘Toxicity and other safety testing’ is larger, accounting for over 61% of all Irish procedures on animals.

Animal Research in Ireland in 2014

95% of animals used in research were rodents (mainly mice). Dogs and cats, combined, accounted for only 0.05% of the total number of animals, and no primates were used at all.

The full Irish statistical document provides information on the source of the animals, the different types of research (broken down in different ways, such as by body system) and the severity – providing a good picture of what research goes on in Ireland.

While the number of animals used is down from the previous year, the HPRA warn about jumping to conclusions on any trend:

The HPRA also advises that in respect of the HPRA’s 2013 data, it would be unsound to directly compare this data as it is only the second year of a new reporting structure to which reporters are getting better acquainted to the changed reporting requirements and provisions required. Extreme caution should be applied therefore in any attempt to draw comparisons to previous years’ figures.

We look forward to seeing another high quality statistical release next year.

Speaking of Research