Category Archives: Outreach News

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

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

German Outreach Done Right

The German Primate Center (DPZ) have been producing some excellent resources to show how their primates are housed. This sort of outreach goes a long way to helping understand the lengths that institutions will go to ensure that high standards of animal welfare are maintained for their primates.

The first resource is an interactive tour of the DPZ facility. The website allows users to se pictures of the facility, and discover key information about the site. There are approximately 1300 primates currently kept at the facility, 75% of which are either rhesus macaques or common marmosets – both common research animals.

It isn’t just information about the animals which is provided. The tour explains why staff and visitors must change their shoes as they walk around the facility, and how clothes are decontaminated between areas. While such practices are very normal for researchers and animal care staff, they can seem quite alien, and even intimidating, for those who are less used to the laboratory environment. The tour answers questions about how often cages are cleaned (daily), how sunlight is regulated, what sort of enrichment exists, and much more.

Animal research facility at DPZ

The breakout boxes provide more information about aspects of animal welfare, facility management and the animals themselves.

How does the environment influence animal behaviour

The captive environment should allow and encourage natural behavior as shown by the species in the wild. This can be behaviors and postures like leaping, climbing, hanging upside-down, and running as well as clinging or jumping. The artificial environment should also allow all social behaviors like grooming, playing, huddling or the display of dominance, which is very important to all primate societies.

DPZ have also produced a video (in English) showing the work being done at their Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. The video looks at research which aims to understand the filtering process (selective attention) in brain processing – “what are its consequences, what is its neural basis, and what happens if there is a malfunction in that system”. It includes both the human and primate research.

The video is fantastic, showing how the primates are treated in studies at DPZ. This sort of outreach is important to help the public understand what primate research actually looks like.

Speaking of Research congratulate DPZ for these fantastic outreach tools.

USDA publishes 2014 Animal Research Statistics

Congratulations to the USDA/APHIS for getting ahead of the curve and making the US the first country to publish its 2014 animal research statistics. Overall, the number of animals (covered by the Animal Welfare Act) used in research fell 6.4% from 891,161 (2013) to 834,453 (2014).

These statistics do not include all animals as most mice, rats, and fish are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act – though they are still covered by other regulations that protect animal welfare. We also have not included the 166,274 animals which were kept in research facilities in 2014 but were not involved in any research studies.

Types of Animals used in research and testing 2014Statistics from previous years show that most of the “All other animals” species are rodents (but not mice or rats). 53% of research is on guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, while 10% is on dogs or cats and 7% on non-human primates. In the UK, where mice, rats, fish and birds are counted in the annual statistics, over 97% of research is on rodents, birds and fish. Across the EU, which measures animal use slightly differently, 93% of research is on species not counted under the Animal Welfare Act. We would expect similar patterns to be true in the US – although there are no statistics to confirm this.

Changes in number of animals used in research from 2013 to 2014 - Click to Enlarge

Changes in number of animals used in research from 2013 to 2014 – Click to Enlarge

If we look at the changes between the 2013 and 2014 statistics we can see a drop in the number of animals of most species , with only the “all other animals” category showing a rise. This is the second year in which the number of many species has fallen. For example, the number of rabbits used in 2014 fell 11.4% from 2013, following a 9.2% fall from 2012.

Most notably the number of non-human primates has fallen by 9.9%, the number of dogs fell 12.4% and the number of cats fell by 13%. This has shown these species taking up a smaller proportion of the research animals used, as can be seen below:

Trend in number of animals used in research 1973 - 2014 - Click to Enlarge

Trend in number of animals used in research 1973 – 2014 – Click to Enlarge

Clearly there has been a downward trend in the number of animals used since the early 1990s with a 61% drop in numbers between 1992 and 2014. It is also likely that, similar to the UK, a move towards using more genetically altered mice and fish has reduced the numbers of other AWA-covered animals used.

Rises and falls in the number of animals used reflects many factors including the level of biomedical activity in a country, trending areas of research, changes to legislations at home and abroad, outsourcing research to and from other countries, and new technologies (which may either replace animal studies or create reasons for new animal experiments).

It is important to note that the number of animals cannot be tallied across years to get an accurate measure of total number of animals. This is because animals in longitudinal studies are counted each year. Thus, if the same 10 animals are in a research facility for 10 years, they would appear in the stats of each year – adding these numbers would incorrectly create the illusion of 100 animals being used.

Speaking of Research welcomes the open publication of these animal research statistics as offering the public a clear idea of what animal research goes on in their country.

A Conversation About Beagle Testing

I received an email one morning from James, a Grade 6 student who wanted to know more about beagles used in research and testing for a school project about his passion. He has a pet beagle named Bagel and had recently watched some videos from the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP written about here and here). James was very curious and quite concerned about the beagles that participated in studies in Canada. He requested some information and to visit the Central Animal Facility at the University Of Guelph. James was invited for a tour and the answers to his questions are as follows:

Job Related

  • What is your job and what do you teach at the University?

I am a research animal technician and my job is to advocate for the animals that are under my care. I instruct those who have not worked with animals how to do so in a compassionate, respectful and ethical manner.

  • Why did you become a technician?

I became a technician because I love animals and people. I also love science and love being a part of making discoveries that improve the lives of millions of people and animals

  • My project is on a passion and I am wondering what your passion is?

I’m passionate about a lot! I am passionate about animals that I have the privilege to care for with compassion and respect. I am passionate about the science that continually makes strides towards new therapeutic advancements. I am passionate about alleviating the suffering of our fellow animals and people who agonize with debilitating and painful diseases. I choose this profession in research because it is my passion.

  • What research do you do in your Lab?

The majority of the work that is done in the facility where I work is basic or fundamental science in a wide variety of areas including oncology, neuroscience, animal behaviour and welfare, molecular biology, physiology, immunology, among others.

Michael Brunt and James during the laboratory visit

Michael Brunt and James during the laboratory visit

Animal Research/Testing

  • Why is it important to use animals/ beagles?

Various non-animal research methods are used together with animal studies to reduce the number of animals needed. These methods include antibodies, stem cells, tissue cultures (all in-directly use animals) and computer models. Non-animal methods account for the majority of biomedical research. Nevertheless, there are important research questions that still require animals. For example, in drug development, a large initial group of chemical candidates may be screened using non-animal methods, and only the most promising ones are taken through animal testing and human clinical trials. Before animal studies can go forward, investigators must detail how they have considered non-animal methods, and why they are not appropriate for answering their research question.

  • What kinds of tests are done?

The Canadian Council on Animal Care has 5 classifications for the purposes of animal use (PAU):
PAU1 – Studies of a fundamental nature in science relating to essential structure or function
PAU2 – Studies for medical purposes, including veterinary medicine, that relate to human or animal disease or disorders
PAU3- Studies for regulatory testing of products for the protection of humans, animals, or the environment
PAU4 – Studies for the development of products or appliances for human or veterinary medicine
PAU5 – Education and training of individuals in post-secondary institutions or facilities

  • What happens with your research findings once you are finished a project?

The findings are published in scientific journals that are available on the internet for everybody to access. The knowledge gained could be used to answer other scientific questions or be applied in translational science to develop new therapies or cures for those that are suffering.

  • What do you do with the animals after you have used them for research/testing?

Ultimately, most of the animals involved in animal research are euthanized. This is because the researchers will often need to further study the body – taking tissue samples and other such tests to make sure they get as much data from any animal they use. To euthanize the animals, researchers use a variety of methods such as an overdose of anesthesia (pain killers) or using CO2 so that the animal slowly drifts into a sleep it never awakes from.

Beagle Research/Testing

  • What is your opinion about beagle research?

Animal research plays a vital role in the development of modern medical and veterinary treatments. Much of our understanding about the biological processes in the body, and the diseases that affect them, comes from studies in animals. I believe that animal research should be conducted with the utmost care, responsibility and respect towards the animals. All personnel involved in animal research should strictly follow the pertinent guidelines, regulations and laws.

  • When did beagle testing begin?

Hundreds of years ago to begin to understand blood movement and the interactions of organs.

  • Why are beagles used for testing?

Health Canada requires that all new drugs, medical devices, and procedures first be evaluated in animals for safety before clinical trials involving human volunteers can begin. The most common “product” that is tested using animal models is new medications. Animals are used to determine that the drug shows a reasonable likelihood of working as conceived and to determine unforeseen side effects. For instance, a researcher may find that a new drug to control high blood pressure does so, but there is a possibility of a side effect such as liver damage. That information needs to be known before it is used in clinical trials with humans.

  • How many beagles are used a year?

0.3% of the animals used in Canada in 2011 were dogs. Mice, rats and fish accounted for 78.5% of the animals.

  • Where do you get your dogs?

Our beagles are provided by companies who breed dogs for research, teaching or testing purposes.

  • How are the dogs treated?

With love, compassion and respect.

  • Why don’t some companies let beagles see sunlight play or even touch grass during their testing time?

At our institution our animals go outside for walks every day with their dedicated paid dog walker and our volunteer dog walkers.

  • How many beagles die each year from testing?

I don’t have an answer to that question. In Canada in 2011, 10,199 dogs were utilized in science. However, that isn’t how many were humanely euthanized at the end of the projects. Our institution has adopted 100s of beagles into our community.

James and Bagel

James and Bagel (Photos reproduced with permissions from copyright owner)

Feedback

James and his parents met a number of our animals, including our beagles, during their tour and I asked him to provide some feedback on his experience.

At first I thought beagle research and testing was inhumane, unbeneficial and cruel. But when I went to the University of Guelph my perspective changed and I learned that research and testing is very important and it helps 1000s of humans and animals because of the research on animals. The people treat all the animals to a good life like every other animal in the world. They play with all the animals mice/rats/dogs and turkeys. One of the reasons that they euthanize the animals is to further discover the effects of a drug to make it safer for humans and other animals. All the animals there are well cared for, like the animals are their family. If we didn’t have research and testing we would never have a treatment to help the people suffering with cancer. 1000s of products have helped humans and other animals because of the work done with beagles. How many people would have died without animal research and testing on the drugs to know if they are safe. What I thought about beagle testing at first was nothing compared to what it is now. I now know that it very helpful. Most of the websites that say all the bad things are not aware of all the things the beagles and animals have done for advancing medicines. Another part of my visit included seeing Dr Woods and he told me about the research he did on mice for prostate cancer. They use mice cells because they react to the cancer like the humans cells do. Dogs are closer to humans than mice in DNA and they need to see how much of the drug they can give without it being toxic. All chemotherapy has been tested through rats, mice and beagles before humans. In my opinion all the beagles and animals who are involved in research are Heroes.”

My interview and tour with James demonstrates that everyone must seize opportunities to engage with members of the public. It is a chance to present accurate information about the ethical use of animals in science and allow people to make informed opinions. These instances foster a culture of understanding, acceptance, value and recognition for the contributions animal research plays in improving the lives of millions of animals and people every day. They are opportunities that should not be squandered.

Michael Brunt

Animal Research Statistics for Germany in 2013

Recent events at Max Planck Institute, where Professor Logothetis has publicly quit his primate research after a campaign of harassment by animal rights activists, have turned attention to animal experiments in Germany. In order to encourage accurate and factual discourse on Germany research we have decided to  provide the facts on the numbers of animals used in research in Germany.

These statistics were originally published in December 2014, and can be found here.

Image Credit: www.speakingofresearch.com

Click to Enlarge

87% of experiments in Germany were conducted on rodents, primarily mice (73%) and rats (13%). Other commonly used species were fish (7%) and rabbits (3%). Dogs, cats and primates together accounted for less than 0.2% of research animals.

Statistics Germany animal research 2000 - 2013. Image Credit: www.speakingofresearch.com

Click to Enlarge

Since 2000, the total number of animal tests rose by 64% to a total of 2,977,152 in 2013, though this is slightly lower than in 2012. This reflects similar pattern in many other countries with strong biomedical research sectors such as the UK.

Change in Species of Animals Used in Germany for Animal Research 2000 - 2013. Image Credit: www.speakingofresearch.com

Click to Enlarge

The rise in animal numbers is almost exclusively from a large rise in the number of mice being used in research in Germany. Part of this reflects the versatility of genetically modified mice which have become a mainstay of research over the last decade.

See animal research statistics from other countries here.

The Contribution of Animal Experiments to the Control of Disease

Jack Botting Animal ResearchDr Jack Botting (1932-2012) was a keen advocate of informing the public about the important role of animals in research. Following a successful career in pharmacology, Dr Botting became the Science Director for the Research Defence Society (RDS), an organisation which would later merge with the Coalition for Medical Progress to form Understanding Animal Research. During his five years at RDS, he wrote many essays for the newsletter on the contribution of animal studies to our understanding of diseases and treatments, as well as address many of the activists pseudoscientific claims denying the role of animals in modern medical developments.

Recently, his wife, Renia Botting, collated his essays and published them in a free-to-all online book. Across nineteen essays, Jack Botting explains the contribution of animal experiments to the treatment of infectious diseases, the development of life-saving procedures, and the creation of drugs for organic diseases. See the chapter overview below:

Animals and Medicine - The contribution of animal experiments to the control of disease

You can read the whole book by clicking here. Choose either “Read the pdf” or “Read the HMTL” to view the whole book for free in two different formats.

Renia Botting writes in the introduction to the book:

“One of the most damaging aspects of antivivisection campaigning was that they had started to hijack the scientific argument, claiming that animal experimentation was scientifically misleading, “a failed technology” etc., and that an examination of the research behind major medical advances showed that non-animal techniques were crucial and that the animal experiments had contributed nothing, or worse still, held up progress. Antivivisectionists were deliberately shifting the debate from the traditional “science vs animal welfare” argument to a “scientific” debate giving their arguments a cover of scientific respectability.

To respond to this style of campaigning, Jack was given the specific task of reviewing the research behind the major medical advances and writing non-technical reviews explaining the role played by animal experimentation. His work effectively put an end to this aspect of antivivisection campaigning. The articles which Jack wrote at that time have been collected in this book.”

It would seem that Jack faced the same challenges we do now in correcting misinformation put about by animal rights groups, as “scientific antivivisection” is sadly still up to its old tricks – if under new guises. His essays address many of the exact same myths that we have worked to debunk. For instance when discussing the development of penicillin, Botting directly answers the animal rights claims that it would never have been further developed if guinea pigs were used in initial tests; when discussing similarity in drug reactions he looks at claims that aspirin has teratogenic effects in rats. The book is well worth a read, especially for anyone who is new to this debate.

Animals and Medicine: The Contribution of Animal Experiments to the Control of Disease by Jack Botting.