November 9th 2021
The statistics for animal research conducted in Canada in 2020 have been released by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). These numbers reflect research conducted by CCAC-certified institutions and by people working at CCAC-certified institutions, even if the research involves animals located outside of Canada. The criteria for CCAC certification can be found here. This also means that not all animals used for research in Canada are included in these reports. The CCAC reports that in 2020, 5,067,778 animals were used for research, teaching, and testing in Canada. This is an increase of 11% from the 4,562,522 animals that were used in 2019.
The collection of statistical data on animal use are undoubtedly useful for some purposes but they also have major limitations with respect to informing meaningful and serious consideration of the ethical use of animals in research. Canada’s 2020 statistics are a good example of this. Why did the number of birds used in Canada increase by 112% compared to the previous year? No explanation is provided in the CCAC’s report.
85.7% of the animals used in research and testing were conducted on mice, rats, fish, and birds, which was slightly lower than in other countries. However, with the inclusion of cattle, this percentage rises to 97%. Similarly to other countries, primates, cats and dogs comprised a small proportion of animals used for research, together accounting for 0.4% of all research animals, with an overall decrease of 4,886 animals from 2019 for these species.
Pain, suffering, and harm were also measured and classified under five categories of invasiveness: A: experiments of most invertebrates or on live isolates, B: experiments which cause little or no discomfort or stress; C: experiments which cause minor stress or pain of short duration; D: experiments which cause moderate to severe distress or discomfort and E: Procedures which cause severe pain near, at, or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetised conscious animals. For further details on what these categories mean, please see here. In 2020, there were no experiments on most invertebrates. 65.9% of experiments caused little or no stress/distress, 16.3% caused minor stress/distress, 17.8% caused moderate distress, and 1.8% caused severe pain.
Overall, there seems to be an upward trend in the number of animals used in research in Canada over the last 20 years, although this pattern is not particularly clear due to annual fluctuations. These fluctuations may be a consequence of the accounting procedures used, and may only reflect animals used in CCAC-certified institutions.