Animals Used in Research – 2014 USDA Report
Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases statistics on the number of animals used for research, testing, teaching, and experimentation under USDA licenses. The statistics, gathered annually and available for the past several decades, reveal trends and tendencies in animal research. The numbers for 2014 show a promising downward trend in animal use.
The audit reveals that, in 2014, 834,453 animals were used, compared to 891,161 in 2013. This is a reduction of 6%. The new figures are also encouraging because they shows the lowest number of animals used in experimentation on record. Almost every species of animals listed decreased in usage, including hamsters, rabbits, cats, dogs, sheep, and primates. The only category which marked an increase was the vague and not well-defined “all other species” group, which increased by a significant 25%. Still, the overall numbers are promising to the extent that this type of audit can cover.
That being said, the remit of this report is far from comprehensive. By design, it leaves out the vast majority of animals used in research – including rats, mice, and a few other species that are considered “lower order” and not worth counting – which account for about 95% of animals experimented on. As the number of these animals is not included, we do not know what is happening to the statistics of these animal used in tests. By a similar token, the report counts the numbers of animals used for particular types of experiments with regards to pain classifications, but the actual purpose of the research is not accounted for. So we do now know why the research is being undertaken.
Many animals advocates use these statistics in their work. The National Anti-Vivisection Society has coverage of the report on their site, and offers various suggestions as to how advocates could try to help ameliorate the situation. Though it is important for advocates to feel positive about the overall thrust of the paper – that animal use in experiments in the U.S. has been on a steady decline for a number of years – the lack of greater transparency in these reports is concerning. As advocates, we need to continue to push for more transparency and even greater reductions of animal use in labs.