9th December 2016
Action needed as numbers of animals used in experiments rise in Europe
An analysis conducted by our scientists of national reports show that the numbers of experiments on animals in Europe is on the increase.
According to our analysis published this month in alternatives journal, Altex, the number of experiments has risen to 13.1 million per year cross the 28 member states of the European Union.
Despite the introduction of revised rules on animal experiments in 2010, the numbers of animals have increased rather than fallen.
According to the European Commission 11.5 million animals were used in experiments in the EU in 2011; according to our analysis this has risen to 13.1 million experiments, an increase of 14% in 2014 (see notes).
Out of the largest users of animals in experiments (using more than 1 million animals), the UK increased by 90%, Germany increased by 35% but France reported 20% fewer experiments than in 2011 (actually 2010).
The UK is now the biggest reported user of animals in the EU with 3.9 million experiments per year. Germany is the second highest user with 2.8 million and France third with 1.8 million.
- We collated all the national statistics published by every EU country for the year 2014, except for Sweden and Portugal who have not yet published their statistics.
- Most member states did not publish detailed reports, according to the agreed tables. Only five countries provided full reports (UK, Denmark, Spain, Hungary and Slovakia)
- There are also concerns that not all animals who are bred and then killed are being counted by all countries in the same way. Under new EU rules, all GM animals that are expected to suffer as a result of their genetic defects should be counted, regardless of whether they are subsequently used in an experiment. The numbers of animals from France for example appears to have dropped when according to this new rule they were expected to rise.
- In 2014 it is estimated that there were 318,259 experiments on rabbits, 3,851 on cats, 11,250 on horses and 22,967 on dogs.
- The use of rabbits appears to have decreased 11% but the use of dogs increased by 28% and horses by 68%.
- There were also 8,898 experiments on primates. The use of new world monkeys (marmosets, tamarins) has increased by 8% but the use of old world monkeys (macaques and baboons) increased by 49%. Baboons were used in Spain (32 experiments), Germany (2 experiments) and France (149 experiments). Approximately 85% of these primates were born outside of the EU.
- Austria (10%), Belgium (15%), Bulgaria (27%) and Ireland (40%) reported the highest levels of severe suffering. Testing of botulinum toxin on animals is a significant activity in Austria and Ireland which might account for this as the test is an LD50 test which causes severe suffering and death to at least 50% of the animals in each and every experiment.
As the European Commission are hosting an event this week in Brussels to discuss the replacement of animals in experiments, we are calling for concrete action to bring the numbers down.
Last month, Cruelty Free International spoke at the European Parliament Intergroup on the welfare and Conservation of Animals to raise our concerns about the lack of a specific action plan to bring numbers down.
Dr Katy Taylor, Director of Science and Regulatory Affairs for Cruelty Free International and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments says; “We are deeply concerned about the apparent rise in animal experiments across Europe. This sits at odds with the rhetoric that European institutions are working hard to replace animal tests. Clearly, more political will is needed to ensure that the numbers go down in reality otherwise all this effort will be for nothing.”
- Report published: Taylor, K, Rego, L. EU statistics on animal experiments for 2014. Altex 33 (4), 2016, 465-468. See
- 2014 is the first year for which member states had to submit and publish their animal statistics according to the new format required by “Commission Implementing Decision of 14 November 2012 establishing a common format for the submission of the information pursuant to Directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (2012/707/EU)”. Member States had to submit these to the Commission in the first instance by 10 November 2015.
- However, under Article 57(2) of the Directive these statistics do not need to be collated and published by the Commission until 10 November 2019, and every three years subsequently. That is why we sought to obtain the number ourselves. We requested the reports from the European Commission earlier this year and were given the web links to the publicly available reports from each country.
- Even without Sweden and Portugal the total number of experiments is in excess of 12.8 million (a rise of 12% from 11.5 million in 2011). Assuming the two missing member states submit the same numbers as 2011, then the projected total is actually 13.1 million, an increase of 14% on 2011.
- The numbers reported under the new rules are ‘experiments completed’ and no longer ‘animals’. This change could explain some of the increase as some animals are subjected to more than one experiment per year. However, in the UK where historically both experiments and animals have been counted, both numbers are normally very similar.
- Following the successful Citizen’s Initiative “Stop Vivisection” in 2015 when over 1.17 million signatures were collected, the European Commission committed to a special scientific event to discuss the use of animals in research and testing. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/lab_animals/pdf/vivisection/en.pdf The conference “Non-Animal Approaches - The Way Forward” will be held at The Egg in Brussels on 6-7 December. Scientists from Cruelty Free International will be presenting there. http://www.euconf.eu/non-animal-approaches-the-way-forward/en/registration/index.html