Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Rise in animal research figures hide true scale of suffering in US

Posted: 7 February 2020. Updated: 11 February 2020


New US Government figures have revealed a rise in the number of animals used in US laboratories, with 41,889 more animals (5.7%) used for experiments during 2018 than in the previous year, and 780,070 animals used for experiments in total. However, with the official figures excluding the use of birds, mice, rats and fish – species not covered under the Animal Welfare Act – the true scale of suffering extends to tens of millions of animals each year. Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling for these forgotten animals to be acknowledged and for a commitment from the government to do more to accelerate the adoption of advanced non-animal research methods.

Of those recorded, the highest numbers of animals used in procedures were guinea pigs (171,406 - 6% decrease), rabbits (133,634 - 11% increase), hamsters (80,539 - 17% decrease), primates (70,797 - 12% increase), dogs (59,401 - 4% increase), and pigs (50,094 - 4% increase).

56,031 of the animals (7%) were subjected to painful or stressful “Category E” procedures, which were NOT relieved with pain medications or anesthetics.


The state of Massachusetts was the highest user of animals (82,177) in 2018. Over the last decade, California has most frequently topped this leader board of suffering (2009 and 2011-2013), followed by New Jersey (2015 and 2017), Ohio (2014 and 2016), and Arizona (2010).

CITES records show that a total of 19,785 primates were imported into the country during 2018, mostly long-tailed macaques, one of the most commonly used primate species in research, and rhesus macaques. The majority of primates (17,010 animals) came into the country from China. The second largest exporter was Mauritius (2,649 animals) – one of the world’s largest suppliers. At a key breeding facility in Mauritius, ADI filmed baby monkeys being torn from their screaming mothers to be tattooed, pregnant monkeys manhandled and pinned down, and monkeys swung by their tails.

Expensive and unnecessary, animal experiments are known to cause suffering, with the vast majority of animals killed at the end of experiments, and be misleading due to the fundamental differences between species in their reaction to substances.


Representing a welcome, and necessary, shift in direction, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) committed in September 2019 to reduce the licensing and funding of testing on mammals by 2025, and eliminate almost all such tests by 2035. Over 200,000 animals have already been saved due to EPA efforts to reduce reliance on animals in recent years, and the agency has committed to invest millions of dollars to advance animal-free testing methods, which more accurately reflect human physiology. ADI says the introduction of such initiatives must continue with a timetable for implementation established.

Advanced non-animal methods, such as those practiced in cosmetics testing, have been in use for many years, avoiding unreliable results from animal models and preventing suffering. Supported by ADI, the Humane Cosmetics Act (HR5141/S2886) seeks to phase out the use of animals for such tests in the US within a year. Similar legislation has come into effect in California, Illinois and Nevada this year, and has been adopted in nearly 40 countries worldwide to date – including the UK, where a ban has been in place for more than 20 years. The terrible torment endured by animals, including racks of rabbits restrained in stocks while products are dripped into their eyes and guinea pigs suffering raw and inflamed skin lesions, has been exposed during ADI investigations.

How you can help!

  • Urge your legislators to support measures to accelerate the adoption of advanced non-animal research methods. Find their details here.
  • Contact your legislators and urge them to support the Humane Cosmetics Act! Find our template letter for S2886 here.
  • Make a donation to support our work to help animals in laboratories.
  • Keep up-to-date with our campaigns and actions. Sign up to receive our email alerts here.

© Animal Defenders International 2020