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Of all the horror stories Research labs create more cruelty than any others.


NASA Chimp

Enos the space chimp before insertion into the Mercury-Atlas 5 capsule in 1961. Non-human primates make up 0.3 percent of research animals, with 55,000 used each year in the U.S. and 10,000 in the European Union.

Animal testing or animal research refers to the use of animals in experiments. It is estimated that 50 to 100 million vertebrate animals worldwide from zebrafish to non-human primates - are used annually and either killed during the experiments or subsequently euthanized. Although much larger numbers of invertebrates are used, these experiments are largely unregulated in law and not included in yearly statistics. The research is carried out inside universities, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, farms, defense-research establishments, and commercial facilities that provide animal-testing services to industry. The vast majority of laboratory animals are bred for research purposes, while a small number are caught in the wild or supplied by pounds.

The topic is controversial. Opponents argue that animal testing is unnecessary, poor scientific practice, poorly regulated, that the costs outweigh the benefits, or that animals have an intrinsic right not to be used for experimentation.

United States

Isis Johnsonquit because of problems she documented at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, in Beaverton, Oregon. In a prepared statement Dr. Johnson said, "More than once, I was instructed by a supervisor to make a personal list of violations of the law, cut that list in half, and then cut that list in half again before writing up my inspection reports. My willingness to uphold the law during my site visits at the Primate Center led to me being 'retrained' several times by higher-ups in the USDA.

Animals used

Accurate global figures for animal testing are difficult to obtain. Estimates are that 100 million animals are experimented on around the world every year, 10-11 million of them in the European Union. Estimates range from 50 to 100 million vertebrate animals used annually worldwide. Animals bred for research then killed as surplus, or used for breeding purposes, are not included in the figures.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total number of animals used in that country in 2002 was 1,137,718. The USDA's statistics have been challenged. The Laboratory Primate Advocacy Group has used the USDA's figures to estimate that 23-25 million animals are used in research each year in America. In 1986, a report produced by the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment reported that "estimates of the animals used in the United States each year range from 10 million to upwards of 100 million," and that their own best estimate was "at least 17 million to 22 million."

In the UK, Home Office figures show that 2,854,944 procedures were carried out in 2004 on 2,778,692 vertebrate animals.

As the figures show, most animals are used in only one procedure: animals either die because of the experiment or are euthanized afterwards. A "procedure" refers to an experiment that might last several months or years.

Pain, distress, and anesthesia

In the U.S. in 2004, 615,000 vertebrate animals (not including rats and mice) were used in procedures that did not include more than momentary pain or distress, according to the researchers. Around 399,000 were used in procedures in which pain or distress was relieved by anesthesia, while 87,000 were used in studies in which researchers planned to cause pain or distress that would not be relieved.

Over half the procedures in Britain in 2004 - 1,710,760 - either did not require anesthesia because the researchers said it would interfere with the results. Of the procedures for which no anesthetic was used in the UK, 880,897 were conducted in connection with pure research; 114,081 were toxicology tests; 982,640 were for breeding; and most of the rest were for applied studies in human medicine, veterinary medicine, or dentistry. 9,035 procedures involved the deliberate infliction of "psychological stress".

A white Wistar lab rat.

Rodents commonly used include guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice. Mice are the most commonly utilized vertebrate species, popular because of their availability, size, low cost, ease of handling, and fast reproduction rate. Mice are widely considered to be the prime model of inherited human disease and share 99% of their genes with humans. With the advent of genetic engineering technology, genetically modified mice can be generated to order and can cost hundreds of dollars each. In the UK in 2004, 1,910,110 mice, 464,727 rats and 37,475 other rodents were used (84.5% of the total animals used that year). In 2005, the total number of rodents used was similar to the previous year: 1,955,035 mice, 414,335 rats and 40,856 other rodents. In the U.S., the numbers of rats and mice used are not reported, but have been estimated at 15-20 million.

Over 20,000 rabbits were used for animal testing in the UK in 2004. Albino rabbits are used in eye irritancy tests because rabbits have less tear flow than other animals and the lack of eye pigment make the effects easier to visualize. They are also used in skin irritancy tests called the Draize test.

Laika, space dog

In 1957, Laika became the first animal to be launched into space.

Beagles are used, largely because they are friendly and gentle, in toxicity tests, surgery, and dental experiments. Toxicology tests are required to last six months in the UK, although British laboratories carry out tests lasting nine months on behalf of Japanese and American customers. Of the 8,018 dogs used in the UK in 2004, 7,799 were beagles (97.3%).Most dogs are bred specifically for the purpose.

Beagles waiting for testing

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