Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

USDA releases latest animal lab testing figures; show just the 'tip of the iceberg'

Posted: 19 October 2018. Updated: 19 October 2018


ADI believes that newly released government figures on the number of animals used in experiments are just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ 792,168 animals were subjected to procedures in the US in 2017, a decrease of 28,644 on the previous year.

However, the annual figures from the USDA fail to include mice, rats, and birds, species that, shockingly, are not covered under the Animal Welfare Act. The National Association for Biomedical Research estimates that 95% of animals used in US experiments are mice and rats, which puts conservative totals for their use into the tens of millions.

ADI urges the USDA to acknowledge the forgotten millions, and to reveal the full extent of animal use in US laboratories.

More than 62,000 animals were used in procedures involving pain “Category E” (meaning animals subjected to painful or stressful procedures that were NOT relieved with pain medications or anesthetics); this is a decrease of 13% since 2016.

Animal experiments cause suffering and are expensive, unnecessary, and often taxpayer-funded. For example, in a study carried out at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, researchers conducted chemical eye burning experiments on dogs. Seven healthy beagles were sedated and manually restrained to obtain eye scans. The dogs were subjected to alkali burns (which are faster acting than acid burns) on their right eye, using a chemical applied for 15-30 seconds, which causes damage and ulceration to the cornea. After the ulcers on their right eye healed, the dogs were subjected to further alkali burns to their left eye, with the chemical applied for 30 seconds. After 14 days of examination, they were killed, so researchers could remove and dissect their corneas to examine the scars. Researchers discussed how this experiment has already been carried out on numerous other species, and how it is a frequent injury that humans experience. Instead of such tests, models using human corneal tissue, such as a 3D in vitro model, can be used to examine wound healing.

In another study, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas conducted experiments on macaque monkeys to investigate brain cells’ response to gravity. Researchers attached permanent implants to the monkeys’ skulls (for immobilization), inserted electrodes into their brains (to make recordings), and attached coils to their eyes (to measure movements). The monkeys were restrained in chairs inside a motorized enclosed simulator, and researchers rotated the animals in different directions 24 times to create “sensory conflict.” These monkeys not only suffered from the implants in their heads and eyes, but also from the stress of being restrained in the chair, placed in the simulator, and spun around. These painful, invasive experiments were also unjustified because the processing of gravity direction in the human brain has already been studied extensively in brain-damaged patients. Studies on brain areas associated with the perception of gravity are also carried out with human volunteers, using non-invasive methods such as fMRI scanning.

ADI’s studies of the use of animals in research have highlighted a wealth of information showing that such testing produces misleading results, due to the fundamental differences between species in their reaction to substances. It’s time to replace outdated animal tests with methods that are more relevant to humans. The fastest growing area of scientific research involves advanced techniques and a bank of alternative non-animal methods that can provide accurate human data, rather than potentially misrepresentative animal data.

ADI recently provided evidence to the US Food and Drug Administration to support the adoption of human-relevant non-animal methods as part of the FDA’s roadmap and recommendations for safety testing of particular products, such as e-cigarettes. Safety (toxicology) testing often involves animals being force fed substances and drugs or having them applied to their skin. Such research has been shown to be unreliable in predicting how safe they are in humans.

Last month, California passed the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act (SB 1249), which outlaws the import and sale of cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients tested on animals from January 1, 2020. ADI supports this and similar national legislation, the Humane Cosmetics Act (HR 2790), which seeks to phase out animal testing for cosmetics within three years.

Take action here:

  • If you live in the US, please contact your Representative and urge them to support the Humane Cosmetics Act (HR 2790) and other measures supporting the adoption of advanced scientific methods.
  • Support our work to stop lab animal suffering.

© Animal Defenders International 2019