Today, the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand published its 2015 annual report on “Statistics on the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Teaching”. It shows the number of animals used in research in 2015 was 225,310, down 27% from the previous year.
While the fall in animals used seems very large, the past fifteen years show such fluctuations are normal, with 30% rises and falls appearing as a regular feature. Overall there seems no clear trend up or down.
Whereas in most countries mice, rats, fish and birds account for over 90% of animals in research, in New Zealand it is under 50%. Instead over 40% of animals are cattle, sheep and deer (down from 45% in 2014), reflecting the huge amount of agricultural research being done. Interesting only 1% of cattle and deer die or are euthanised (compared with 99% of the mice). See Appendix 1 for more information on the proportion euthanised.
No primates are used in research in New Zealand, nor have they been for a while. Dogs and cats accounted for just under 0.6% of research.
Here is some other interesting information provided by the annual statistical release. Page numbers refer to the source in the annual report.
- 46% of research is conducted by universities (31%) and crown research institutes (15%) , most of the rest is done by commercial organisations (42%). The proportion done by commercial organisations is up from the previous year, though actual numbers are down. [p. 18]
- Only 3.4% of animals used in 2015 were transgenic, though this is up from 1.9% in 2014. [p. 7]
- Only 39% of animals die or are euthanised; this tends to polarise between high rates for mice and rats, and a very low proportion for sheep and cattle. The number euthanised is up slightly from 2014, when it was 34%, and reflects the higher proportion of small animal species used in 2015. [p. 17]
- A large rise in veterinary research made it the most common purpose of research (39.5%). This was followed by animal husbandry research (20.2%), teaching (19.5%) and basic biological research (18.3%). This is a big change from 2014 when basic research was the biggest reason for using animals.
The Animal Welfare Regulations also demand researchers to grade animal manipulations according to a five point scale:
- “no impact or virtually no impact” – manipulations that causes no stress or pain or virtually no stress or pain
- “little impact” – manipulations of minor impact and short duration
- “moderate impact” – manipulations of minor impact and long duration or moderate impact and short duration
- “high impact” – manipulations of moderate impact and long duration or high impact and short duration
- “very high impact” – manipulations of high impact and long duration.
In 2015, 17.4% of animals were involved in research with no, or virtually no negative impact on the animal. 58.2% had little impact on the animal, 19.3% had moderate impact, and 5.5% were considered high or very high impact. These last categories are up 1.6 percentage points from 2014.
We aim to keep our readers abreast of the latest developments in animal statistics worldwide. Keep your eyes out for more stats on the horizon.
See previous years’ publications on Speaking of Research: