Number of animals used in invasive experiments in Australia reaches an all time low

Humane Research Australia – the only organization to collate national statistics on animals used in research from each state department – is pleased to reveal that the latest figures (from 2016) show a significant reduction in animals used in invasive research.

Looking at the total figures published can make it difficult to see a clear picture of animal use – particularly when not all states make their statistics publicly available – however a closer analysis of those figures which are available show that the number of animals used (excluding those used in observational studies) has, for the first time in the last ten years of gathering information, been under 2 million.

The information provided by state department reports show varying degrees of severity. The category “Observation involving minor interference” has as its definition: “Animals are not interacted with, or, where there is interaction, it would not be expected to compromise the animal’s welfare any more than normal handling, feeding, etc. There is no pain or suffering involved.”

By excluding those animals used in this category, the number of animals used in 2016 totals 1.8 million, which is a reduction of 21.85% (or just over half a million individual animals) from the previous year.

Helen Marston, CEO, Humane Research Australia: “We need to make it clear, that 1.8 million animals used in experimentation is 1.8 million too many, and HRA will continue opposing all harmful animal experiments, however it is heartening to witness substantial progress toward reaching zero.”

The reduction coincides with further positive data obtained through a recent public opinion poll, which showed growing awareness of animal experiments. 71% of respondents are now aware that animal experiments occur in Australia - an increase from 57% in our 2013 survey – and fewer believe that animals are necessary for the development of human medicine than shown in previous years.

The shift in research focus is also encouraged by confirmation from the South Australian Minister for Environment and Water, the Hon. David Speirs, that his government would be establishing an annual research scholarship of $25,000 to fund university research into discovering alternatives to animal testing. 

Helen Marston: “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. Their work affects a great many lives – not only those animals they may choose or choose not to use – 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. It is pleasing to see that these latest findings suggest Australia might finally be heading in the right direction.” Marston concluded.

The Figures

A look at the states (where available) excluding animals used in observational studies:

Note that since publication of this article, Queensland statistics have been obtained, however we are unable to include them in the analysis as figures given for severity and purpose of procedures refer to the numbers of projects rather than the numbers of individual animals used.

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