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Animal research on the rise

Mar 04, 2015 02:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

The latest news from the Journal of Medical Ethics tells us that the use of animals in experimental research has soared at leading U.S. laboratories in recent years—despite growing public opposition to animal experimentation. The data, researchers say, contradicts industry claims of reduced animal use and “are at odds with government policies designed to curb and replace the use of animals in experiments.”

According to the Journal, the U.S. is the world’s largest user of animals in experiments, and government data does show declines in the use of cats, dogs, primates, rabbits, hamsters, and other large mammals. “But the exclusion of the species most commonly used in laboratory research—mice, rats, birds bred for experimentation, and all cold-blooded animals—from federal regulations has resulted in an absence of published data on how many of these animals are used in experiments.”

To fill this information gap, folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) used Freedom of Information requests to obtain and analyze previously unpublished data collected by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the use of all vertebrate species at the top 25 institutions in receipt of its grants.

The analysis showed that use of animals in laboratory research at these facilities rose by just under 73 percent between 1997 and 2012. “This was largely driven by increases in the use of mice while the use of other species remained mostly unchanged. Unregulated species made up almost 98.8 percent of the animals used at these labs.”

Ultimately, the report recommends that “institutional policies be updated to better inform the public about the use of animals in scientific research, as well as opening up dialogue between a broad base of players to replace the current often poorly informed and emotionally charged debate.”

If this is a cause near to your heart, you may want to travel to Virginia for the third annual A Time to Break Silence presented by Castleton in Performance (www.castletonfestival.org) on March 14 at 7 p.m. Guest speaker Alec Baldwin will address the evening’s theme of human and animal rights and the relationship that can exist between them. See website for details.

--Sarah Hagerty
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