USDA secretly reduces laboratory inspections despite rising animal suffering
According to the latest US Department of Agriculture (USDA) annual report, a total of 797,546 animals were used in US research in 2019 (a 2% increase since 2018), including 68,257 primates, 58,511 dogs and 18,270 cats.
49,422 animals (6% of those tested on in the USA in 2019) were used in experiments for which no pain relief was provided. Worryingly, there has been an 82% increase in the number of monkeys and a 9% increase in the number of dogs used in these painful experiments.
The USDA report does not include mice, rats, fish or birds, despite these animals being the most commonly used animals in experiments. As a result, the true number of animals suffering in US laboratories is expected to be far higher. We estimate the number to be at least 14 million (1).
These figures are especially disturbing after the revelation that the USDA secretly changed its inspection process back in February 2019 to allow the conduct of partial rather than full inspections of facilities that are accredited by a private organization called AAALAC International.
As most major US research and testing facilities pay for AAALAC accreditation to demonstrate certain standards of animal welfare, this is essentially self-policing, and AAALAC facilities have been found to violate national animal welfare laws more frequently than non-accredited laboratories in the US (2).
In January-March 2018, the USDA held public meetings across the country to obtain feedback on a proposal to allow third party inspections of US laboratories. After objections from the public and animal protection organizations, including Cruelty Free International, who argued that the change would result in biased self-regulation of the industry and lead to increased animal suffering, the USDA announced that the proposal had been abandoned (3).
We are therefore shocked and disappointed that the USDA has secretly gone back on its word and chosen to ignore the will of the public in favor of private interests. We believe this will have detrimental consequences for animals in US laboratories.
Monica Engebretson, our Head of Public Affairs North America, said: “We are appalled by the unacceptable number of animals suffering in US laboratories and by the USDA’s shocking deception of the public in its new inspection policy. We urge the US government to reverse this policy and to adopt the HEARTS act to prioritize the use of more humane and human-relevant non-animal methods.”
If you live in the US, please take our pledge to #MakeTheirVoiceCount and urge the current Administration to work towards ending the suffering of millions of animals used in cruel laboratory testing each year. Also, please contact your Representative and ask them to co-sponsor the HEARTS Act to support the use of humane alternatives to animal tests in US research.
1. Taylor, K and Rego Alvarez, L. (2019) An Estimate of the Number of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes Worldwide in 2015. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals, 47(5-6) 196–213.
2. Goodman, J, Chandna, A. Borch, C. (2015) Does Accreditation by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) Ensure Greater Compliance With Animal Welfare Laws? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 18 (1), 82-91.
3. USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Bulletin: USDA Announces It Will Not Recognize Third-Party Inspections and Certifications. 05/25/2018. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAAPHIS/bulletins/1f27bf1