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Research Animals - Laboratory Animals And Their Uses

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Determining the number of animals used for research in the United States is extremely difficult because rats, mice, birds, and cold-blooded animals are not regulated by the AWA and do not have to be counted. It is widely agreed that rats and mice comprise a huge majority of research animals. In 2004 the National Research Council noted that approximately twenty-three million rats and mice were used in biomedical research during 1998 and that the number was expected to increase by 10 to 20% annually through 2010. If this prediction held true, thirty-seven to fifty-one million rats and mice were needed during 2004 for biomedical research. Some estimates place the total number even higher. In 2002 the journal Nature estimated that sixty million mice would be needed just to complete the mouse genome (a study of the genetic makeup of the mouse with the function of every gene identified). An article in the July 26, 2004, issue of Scientific American estimated that close to 100 million mice are "consumed" annually in U.S. laboratories.

As shown in Table 5.4, there were 1,137,718 AWA-registered animals used in live research during fiscal year 2002. California laboratories used the most regulated animals (130,614), followed by New Jersey (75,236), Pennsylvania (72,834), Massachusetts (70,118) and Nebraska (69,574). Together these five states accounted for more than one-third of all regulated research animals.

Figure 5.11 shows the breakdown of regulated research animals by species. Guinea pigs comprised the largest portion (22%), while rabbits made up 21%. Hamsters comprised 16% of the total. Pigs, sheep, and other farm animals totaled 12%. Together dogs, cats, and non-human primates constituted 13% of all regulated animals. These species are the ones that arouse the most public concern in the research animal debate. Other covered species constituted 16% of the total.

The total number of regulated research animals used annually over the thirty-year period from 1973 to 2002 is shown in Figure 5.12. Over the first twenty years of this period (1973–92), the average was 1.77 million animals per year. For the ten-year period from 1993 to 2002 the average dropped to 1.34 million per year.

Figure 5.13 shows the average number of each regulated species used between 1973 and 1992 compared with the average for 1993 to 2002. The differences between these two averages are as follows:

  • Dogs—Down 53%
  • Cats—Down 52%
  • Primates—Up 3%
  • Guinea Pigs—Down 34%
  • Hamsters—Down 43%
  • Rabbits—Down 33%
  • Farm Animals—Down 2%
  • Other Covered Animals—Up 16%

Biomedical Research

The vast majority of research animals are used in biomedical research. Biomedicine is a medical discipline based on principles of the natural sciences, particularly biology and biochemistry. Principal research areas within biomedicine are:

TABLE 5.4
Animals used at USDA-registered research facilities by state, fiscal year 2002
SOURCE: Adapted from "Animals Used in Research," in Animal Care Report: Annual Report of Enforcement by Fiscal Year, 2002, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 2003, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/awreports/awreport2002.pdf (accessed March 17, 2005)

Species
States All other covered species Cats Dogs Guinea pigs Hamsters Non-human primates Other farm animals Pigs Rabbits Sheep Total by state
AK 486 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 496
AL 1,793 277 1,291 516 8 930 779 533 2,026 28 8,181
AR 96 0 299 241 2 56 23 118 470 0 1,305
AZ 5,128 101 122 127 631 113 18 481 808 39 7,568
CA 11,618 2,446 3,161 29,727 8,015 4,021 18,090 5,707 44,942 2,887 130,614
CO 2,273 284 739 2,531 587 26 171 506 760 509 8,386
CT 839 98 647 867 1,126 367 292 369 1,230 7 5,842
DC 11,753 11 269 546 733 351 0 964 1,311 23 15,961
DE 437 1,321 878 4,154 13,794 36 901 3,801 18,108 78 43,508
FL 2,173 532 297 321 222 180 1,617 1,265 789 173 7,569
GA 7,443 855 1,470 1,664 9,178 3,862 221 646 3,991 30 29,360
HI 13 1 0 0 282 0 12 25 43 0 376
IA 966 1,701 1,738 8,415 42,068 9 1,655 1,605 5,125 750 64,032
ID 598 21 51 8 0 0 17 0 133 813 1,641
IL 4,544 541 2,852 11,509 1,524 730 1,022 2,188 14,219 296 39,425
IN 12,984 881 2,425 2,725 1,063 402 460 549 2,539 92 24,120
KS 405 1,014 1,162 30 700 224 5,102 486 359 24 9,506
KY 494 75 192 244 305 87 20 241 651 5 2,314
LA 1,208 218 853 548 0 2,771 507 233 1,095 0 7,433
MA 5,930 415 2,286 22,008 12,904 3,911 1,860 4,732 15,100 972 70,118
MD 11,135 610 1,051 16,557 6,578 5,361 503 1,828 7,837 397 51,857
ME 1,969 17 25 0 12 0 206 90 644 0 2,963
MI 5,482 1,159 6,000 15,083 1,722 1,161 381 988 5,024 263 37,263
MN 201 746 1,518 6,110 347 143 829 2,760 3,072 713 16,439
MO 618 2,052 2,494 4,971 7,887 150 1,382 1,550 4,992 755 26,851
MS 95 65 364 196 115 64 243 205 11 1,358
MT 2,361 21 0 453 124 9 1,752 0 868 126 5,714
NC 1,719 698 1,164 8,826 823 1,440 185 2,679 4,195 256 21,985
ND 13 0 12 0 0 0 48 1,096 6 775 1,950
NE 389 745 1,162 3,210 39,481 66 333 10,566 3,854 9,768 69,574
NH 94 8 36 0 142 11 0 577 154 3 1,025
NJ 12,012 265 5,892 28,997 5,436 3,208 49 3,171 16,187 19 75,236
NM 881 0 415 100 158 82 185 265 34 30 2,150
NV 9 0 105 369 2 0 3 0 75 466 1,029
NY 16,008 1,812 6,223 12,271 8,235 2,002 1,025 2,339 5,463 576 55,954
OH 8,139 889 4,412 27,993 3,598 828 492 3,608 13,203 198 63,360
OK 779 101 884 754 16 283 270 79 632 73 3,871
OR 825 53 129 530 582 1,249 7 743 677 170 4,965
PA 3,372 1,908 5,902 15,796 2,364 2,534 793 2,354 37,157 654 72,834
PR 1,205 0 0 58 157 236 0 23 43 0 1,722
RI 576 8 14 96 201 0 22 261 207 115 1,500
SC 2,419 90 213 164 0 344 4 356 490 15 4,095
SD 356 45 41 11 6 6 2,053 1,730 373 510 5,131
TN 1,389 144 650 1,191 299 192 126 1,311 843 78 6,223
TX 4,358 870 1,991 6,035 5,841 6,300 4,439 2,900 11,676 1,054 45,464
UT 654 129 328 1,529 146 13 59 156 868 234 4,116
VA 3,762 161 2,093 386 538 2,304 212 786 3,503 72 13,817
VT 529 12 25 326 161 10 70 227 906 2,266
WA 24,705 254 743 3,840 165 2,462 314 336 2,619 389 35,827
WI 2,816 497 3,577 3,613 1,624 3,704 138 1,171 4,740 169 22,049
WV 88 54 27 82 13 4 216 143 627
WY 349 17 25 44 4 237 51 21 748
    Species total 180,488 24,222 68,253 245,576 180,000 52,279 48,888 68,489 243,838 25,685
    Report total 1,137,718
Note: This excludes rats, mice, birds, and cold-blooded animals.
  • Biomedical Engineering—the application of engineering technology in medicine—for example, development of artificial organs and limbs
  • Carcinogenesis—the generation of cancer from normal cells
  • Epidemiology—the incidence, distribution, and control of disease in a population
  • Gene Therapy—the insertion of normal or genetically altered genes into cells
  • Immunology—the study of the immune system FIGURE 5.11
    Animals used at USDA-registered research facilities, fiscal year 2002
    SOURCE: Adapted from "Animals Used in Research," in Animal Care Report: Annual Report of Enforcement by Fiscal Year, 2002, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 2003, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/2002ar/ar2002.pdf (accessed March 17, 2005)
  • Mutagenesis—the development of mutations (permanent changes in genetic material)
  • Neurosciences—the study of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves)
  • Pathology—the study of diseases, particularly their structural properties and their effects on the body
  • Pharmacology—the study of drugs, particularly the sources, chemistry, properties, effects, uses, and preparation of drugs
  • Toxicology—the study of poisonous substances, particularly their chemistry and effects on the body and treatment of those effects

The National Institutes of Health maintains a database of biomedical research projects that have received funding from federal agencies dating back to 1972. The searchable database is called Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP). The CRISP database is available to the public via the Internet at http://www.crisp.cit.nih.gov. It can be searched to find information about the use of animals in federally funded research projects at universities, hospitals, and other research institutions. For example, a search conducted in February 2005 using the search term "dogs" returned 167 projects in which dogs played a role. Information supplied about each project includes the name of the principal investigator, the name and address of the research institution, the starting and ending dates of the project, the federal agency providing funding, and a description of the project.

DRUG TESTING.

According to the FDA, drug companies typically test new drugs on at least two different animal species to see if they are affected differently. Animal testing is performed to determine specific characteristics, such as:

  • How much of the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream
  • Any toxic side effects
  • Appropriate dosage levels
  • How the drug is metabolized (broken down) by the body
  • How quickly the drug is excreted from the body

The results from animal tests tell researchers if and how new drugs should then be tested on humans.

Table 5.5 is a table provided by the Michigan Society for Medical Research that lists various animal species that have been used in different areas of biomedical research, including drug testing.

Product Testing

Millions of research animals are used to test products intended for industrial and consumer markets in the United States. Product safety testing exposes animals to chemicals to determine factors such as eye and skin irritancy. Common product safety tests conducted with animals include:

  • Acute toxicity tests determine the immediate effects of chemical exposure. The LD-50 test is an example. In this test, animals are exposed to chemicals through ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact to determine the concentration necessary to kill 50% of the test group within a specific time period.
  • Skin and eye irritancy tests determine the effects on skin and eyes of chemical exposure. One example is the Draize eye test, in which chemicals are placed in the eyes of restrained animals. Rabbits are commonly used because they cannot blink and wash out the chemicals.
  • Subchronic and chronic toxicity tests determine the effects of long-term chemical exposure.
  • Genetic toxicity tests determine the effects of chemical exposure on reproductive organs.
  • Birth defects tests determine the effects of chemical exposure on offspring.
  • Cancer potential tests determine the potential of chemical exposures for causing cancer.

FIGURE 5.12
Animals used at USDA-registered facilities by year, 1973–2002
SOURCE: Adapted from "Number of Animals Used by Research from the First Reporting Year (FY 1973) to the Present," in Animal Care Report: Annual Report of Enforcement by Fiscal Year, 2002, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 2003, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/2002ar/ar2002.pdf (accessed March 17, 2005)

CONSUMER PRODUCTS.

Some companies selling consumer products, such as cosmetics and household cleaners, advertise that they do not conduct animal testing on their products or that their products are "cruelty-free." In some cases this statement may be somewhat misleading. For example, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), such claims can mean various things, including:

  • Animal testing has not been performed on the products and/or their ingredients in the previous five years.
  • Animal testing was performed on the products and/or ingredients by another company (for example, a supplier).
  • Non-animal testing was performed on finished products made from ingredients already known to be safe because of previous animal testing.

CAAT points out that the vast majority of cosmetic ingredients used by the industry have been tested on animals at some point in time, or are known to be safe based upon decades of use. It notes that smaller cosmetics companies tend to produce final products made from purchased ingredients, rather than from ingredients developed in-house. Larger companies that develop new ingredients for cosmetics must use animal testing or viable alternatives to prove that the ingredients are safe for consumer use.

The National Anti-Vivisection Society publishes a book called Personal Care for People Who Care, which lists hundreds of companies that produce personal care (e.g., bath products, deodorants and antiperspirants), household (e.g., bathroom and kitchen cleaners, furniture polishes), pet care, and cosmetic products and tells whether they do or do not test their products on animals. The companies are categorized as follows:

  • Companies that do not test products or ingredients on animals, nor do any of their outside suppliers
  • Individual subsidiaries/divisions that do not test products or ingredients on animals even though their parent companies do test on animals
  • Companies that do not test their finished products or ingredients on animals but do not have agreements FIGURE 5.13
    Comparison of animal usage at USDA-registered facilities, fiscal year 1973–2002
    SOURCE: Adapted from "Number of Animals Used by Research from the First Reporting Year (FY 1973) to the Present," in Animal Care Report: Annual Report of Enforcement by Fiscal Year, 2002, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 2003, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/2002ar/ar2002.pdf (accessed March 17, 2005)
    with suppliers stating that they do not test their ingredients on animals
  • Companies that do test products and/or ingredients on animals

In addition, the book identifies companies that do not use any animal-derived ingredients in their products. Other animal rights organizations, such as PETA, maintain similar types of lists. Some provide a seal compliant companies can use to mark their products for easy identification by shoppers.

In February 2003 the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament approved the 7th Amendment of Council Directive 76/768/EEC (the Cosmetics Directive). It will place a ban on the testing of cosmetics on animals in Europe in 2009. In addition, in 2009 the sale and import of new cosmetics tested on animals using eleven specific tests will be banned. Another ban will be implemented in 2013 on the sale and import of cosmetics tested on animals for three toxicity tests (assuming that valid alternative tests have been established by that time).

Dissection

Dead animals used for dissection in schools comprise a small portion of all research animals. An HSUS estimate on the organization's Web site in 2005 suggested that approximately six million animals are dissected by American schoolchildren each year, mostly frogs, pig fetuses, and cats. Dissection has been considered a staple of biology classes since the 1960s, when the National Science Foundation urged schools to implement a more hands-on science curriculum.

According to the NEAVS, the first legal challenge against school dissection lodged by a student occurred in California in 1987. A high school student sued her school for not allowing her to perform an alternative to dissection. California and Florida became the first states to allow students to opt out of dissection in the mid- to TABLE 5.5
Roles animals have played in biomedical research
SOURCE: "Roles Animals Have Played in Biomedical Research," in Educational Materials, Michigan Society for Medical Research, 2003

Armadillos Mice
Leprosy Addictive drugs
Cats Cancer treatments
Genetic models
Cataract surgery Organ transplants
Deafness Whooping cough vaccine
Epilepsy
Feline leukemia Monkfish
Glaucoma Hormone research
Lupus Insulin for diabetes
Chinchillas Pigs
Cholera vaccine Atherosclerosis
Sleep research Heart transplants
Dogs Motion sickness patches
Plastic surgery
Aging Stress studies
Artificial hips & joints
Behavioral studies Primates
Organ transplants AIDS
Ferrets Alzheimer's disease
Gum disease
Canine distemper In vitro fertilization
Influenza virus Polio vaccine
Reproductive research rH factor
Toxicology research Rabbits
Flies Emphysema
Genetic research Eye & ear infections
Frogs Rabies vaccine
Antibiotics Skin disorders
Guinea pigs Salamanders
Diphtheria vaccine Heart attack research
Immune systems Sheep
Hamsters Anthrax vaccine
Diabetes Fetal alcohol syndrome
Lyme disease Joint reconstruction
Pregnancy research
Marine sponges Woodchucks
Human immune system Hepatitis B

late 1980s. According to information available on the HSUS Web site in early 2005, several other states have since followed suit with "choice-in-dissection" laws or policies—Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia.

By the early twenty-first century many students were expressing ethical and moral concerns about the practice of dissection in the classroom. Some school districts now offer students alternatives, such as computer models. The National Science Teachers Association defends dissection as a valuable learning tool for children, but urges teachers to be flexible in offering alternatives.

The use of dissection as an educational tool in secondary schools has been banned in Israel, Switzerland, Holland, the Slovak Republic, Poland, Argentina, and the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Surgical/Medical Training and Behavior Research

It is estimated that the use of laboratory animals for surgical/medical training and behavior research comprises only a small part of the number of research animals used. However, this category is one that is particularly criticized by antivivisection groups. In the past, surgeons training to operate on humans and animals almost always practiced on live animals. Many of these surgeries were "terminal surgeries," or those conducted on animals that are not allowed to regain consciousness. The animals are euthanized while they are under the effects of anesthesia.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), as of February 2005, two-thirds of all U.S. medical schools had eliminated live animal labs to train medical students. Its list of medical schools that continued to use such labs to train students in human physiology, pharmacology, and/or surgery as of that date included twenty-one schools. PCRM notes that many of the medical schools that have dropped the use of live animal labs are well-respected institutions, among them Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.

Many veterinary schools are limiting the number of terminal surgeries required of their students. The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled Directions. In its winter 2005 issue the AVAR noted that thirteen of the nation's twenty-eight veterinary medical schools have dropped terminal procedures from their core courses. Seven of those schools have also dropped terminal procedures in elective courses.

Some veterinary schools conduct dissection labs. According to the NEAVS, many schools now use animal cadavers donated by people whose pets or livestock have died of natural causes or have been humanely euthanized due to illness or injury.

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