Washington -- Despite industry claims of reduced animal use as well as federal laws and policies aimed at reducing the use of animals, the number of animals used in leading U.S. laboratories increased a staggering 73 percent from 1997 to 2012, according to a new study by PETA to be published Feb. 25 11:30 p.m. UK time in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Ethics, the world's leading bioethics journal.
For the analysis, PETA researchers used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain little-known, unpublished data on the use of all vertebrate animals from 1997 to 2012 in laboratories at the top 25 institutional recipients of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)--including Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, the University of California-San Francisco, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Johns Hopkins University--which, together, account for 27 percent of all NIH grants disbursed.
PETA found that while the use of cats, dogs, primates, and other large mammals stayed the same or decreased slightly over the 15-year period, a dramatic rise in the use of mice--likely because of animal-intensive genetic modification experiments--accounted for a 72.7 percent increase in overall animal use across these facilities.
The study is the first ever to document figures on the use of mice, rats, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in U.S. laboratories, because these species are not protected under the federal law governing the treatment of animals used in experiments--the Animal Welfare Act--and therefore are excluded from the law's reporting requirements. PETA's new study found that these unregulated species comprise 98.8 percent of animals in laboratories.
"Despite new research technology, evidence that animal experiments often don't faithfully translate to humans, and the fact that a growing majority of the public opposes experiments on animals, laboratories are abusing more animals than ever before," says PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Justin Goodman. "PETA's study highlights the need for NIH to increase transparency of animal use in experiments and escalate efforts to reduce and replace the use of animals at taxpayer-funded laboratories."
The results were first presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose, Calif.