The results for 2014 (most recent available) have been collated by Humane Research Australia and show that the number of animals used (and documented) is 5,195,329 (up from 4,928,872 the previous year). But, says the organisation, the figure is very conservative as it doesn’t take into consideration those animals used in South Australia, Queensland, ACT and the Northern Territory as these figures have not been made available. Going by the most recent obtainable statistics for these states the total number of animals used is closer to over 6.99 million.
The procedures ranged from ‘Observational studies involving minor interference’ to ‘Major physiological challenge’, ‘Production of genetically modified animals’ and ‘Death as an end point’.
“Australia has a notorious record of using large numbers of animals for research in comparison with other nations,” says Helen Marston, CEO, Humane Research Australia.
“We are the fourth highest user, behind the United States, Japan and China. When you consider Australia’s lower human population, the number of animals used per capita suggests there is no commitment to adhere to the three R’s Principle of animal use - Refinement, Reduction, Replacement.
“The extrapolation of data from animals to humans can be dangerously misleading due to anatomic, genetic and metabolic differences. It is therefore not the most efficacious method of medical research. Australia should be investing in the development and validation of more humane and scientifically valid research methods - as occurs in Europe and the United States.
“Today’s researchers carry a huge responsibility,” says Ms Marston.
“Their work affects a great many lives - not only those animals they may choose or choose not to us - but many terminally ill human patients who are looking toward cures. They don’t care whether a cancer drug works on a mouse, or diabetes can be cured in a monkey. These ongoing promises only taunt them with false hope. These people need real cures. Unfortunately this will not happen unless we let go of antiquated methodologies that rely on data from a different species.”
Of those animals used in 2014 that were reported (by only four states):
26,397 (or 0.51%) were in the ‘Death as end point category’
The aim of experiments in this category requires the animal(s) to die unassisted, i.e. not euthanased, as death is ‘a critical measure of the experimental treatment’. For example, toxicological experiments such as the LD50 test, in which animals are forced to ingest, inhale, be exposed to, or be injected with a particular substance up until the point where 50% of the animals die. The test is generally conducted without anesthesia or pain relief due to concern that they would alter test results.
189,334 (or 3.64%) were in the ‘Major physiological challenge’ category
Experiments in this category require the animal(s) to remain conscious for some or all of the procedure. There is interference with the animal's physiological or psychological processes. The challenge causes a moderate or large degree of pain/distress, which is not quickly or effectively alleviated. Examples include causing major infection, or artificially inducing cancer, without pain alleviation; isolation or environmental deprivation for extended periods; and monoclonal antibody production in mice.
1,071,816 (or 20.63%) were in the ‘Minor conscious intervention category
Experiments in this category require the animal(s) to be subjected to minor procedures that would normally not require anaesthesia or analgesia, but can cause some distress. Examples include tail tipping and toe clipping; injections and blood sampling; minor dietary or environmental deprivation; trapping and euthanasia for collection of specimens; and stomach tubing, branding or disbudding (removing the horns from a young animal).
Animals used in experiments:
- 6,613 dogs
- 2,183 cats
- 676,066 native mammals, including koalas, wallabies, possums and wombats
- 202 primates
- 2,023,834 mice
- 113,158 rats
- 333,922 sheep
- 425,994 domestic fowl (eg chickens, ducks, etc) and 384,225 other types of birds
A full breakdown is available at humaneresearch.org.au/statistics