Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 22 January 2002 Issue
Animal Experimentation Statistics From The USDA.
By Michael Budkie
Animal experimentation is one of the most controversial issues that
confronts the animal rights movement. This issue is shrouded in secrecy
produced by locked doors and security systems. We cannot just walk into
most laboratories and start asking questions. We have to go somewhere else
to get information.
Every year the United States Department of Agriculture / Animal & Plant Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) publishes a document titled the Animal Welfare Enforcement Report (AWER). This document deals with many issues germane to the animal rights movement. Animal exhibitors, dealers, transporters, and experimenters are all covered in some way by this report.
The recently released report for the year 2000 is heavily laden with statistics. The report tells us that 1,416,643 animals were experimented on in fiscal year 2000. This number is broken down by species: 69,516 dogs, 25,560 cats, 57,518 primates, 505,009 guinea pigs, 258,754 rabbits, 23,934 sheep, 66,651 pigs, 69126 "other" farm animals, and 166,429 "other" animals. According to the report 104,202 (7.4%) of these animals were used in painful or stressful experimentation without benefit of anesthesia. (The report is internet accessible at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/publications.html in the annual reports section.)
How meaningful are these statistics? Do they give us an accurate picture of animal experimentation, or are they misleading? It may be best to characterize these statistics as limited. They are limited by the manner in which the USDA/APHIS enforces the Animal Welfare Act, and they are limited by the accuracy of the research facilities that file reports.
The first and most important limitation of these numbers is that they ignore the majority of animals used in experimentation. Rats, mice, and many other species (i.e. all non-mammals) are not required to be reported. Therefore, if we want an accurate total of the number of animals used in experimentation, we can only estimate. Rodents and the other unreported species are estimated to make up 85 - 95% of all animals used in experimentation. Therefore, the total of all animals experimented on could exceed 20,000,000, but we really don't know an exact total.
Are the numbers that are reported accurate? Well, they are only as accurate as the source providing the information. These statistics are based on annual reports filed by each research facility. The labs are required to report how many animals are experimented on (breaking the numbers down into certain categories), as well as how many animals they are keeping on hand for breeding/conditioning. However, no totals are ever given for the animals kept by laboratories for breeding purposes. Only those animals actually experimented on are dealt with in the statistics of the Animal Welfare Enforcement Report.
One way to check the accuracy of the report is to compare it to the documents from which it was prepared. In other words, do the individual facility reports match up with what the larger report indicates? Also, how good are those individual reports? Are they accurate, or are we being lied to?
The fiscal 2000 reports are not yet accessible, but the fiscal 1998 reports are internet accessible. What do the 1998 reports tell us?
For 1998 laboratories in the state of Connecticut are listed as using 190 primates. And if we compare the reports posted on the USDA/APHIS website for Connecticut the totals seem to agree. However, are the reports themselves accurate? One of the largest research facilities in the state of Connecticut is at Yale University in New Haven. It seems that the folks at Yale are somewhat numerically challenged. The report forms filed by Yale staff with the USDA for fiscal 1998 are very confusing. The report lists 32 primates as experimented on and 71 as being held for use in breeding, conditioning, etc. The exceptions to standard care section of the report lists 22 different primates as being deprived of water during experimentation. This section also lists 65 macaque monkeys as being deprived of food during experimentation.
This means that either the
primates were being deprived of both food and water during experimentation,
or at least 87 primates were experimented on. Even if only 62 primates were
experimented on (which means that 22 of these 65 were deprived of both food
and water), that is still significantly different from the 32 primates
reported by Yale as being experimented on. Also, the total primates listed
on Yale's USDA report are 103 (32 + 71). This number is further
contradicted by a USDA inspection report for Yale dated 7/14 & 15/98, which
lists 198 non-human primates as being on the premises of Yale. What was
done with those other 95 primates that are not accounted for? How did Yale
conveniently neglect to mention them?
Additionally, as was stated earlier, the numbers for animals held for breeding or conditioning are not included in the experimentation total. The Connecticut total for primates in this category is 182. 190 are listed as being experimented on in Connecticut. So, the actual total for primates in labs in Connecticut for 1998 is 372, not 190. But then, maybe we need to add those other 95 primates that Yale conveniently forgot. That brings our total for Connecticut to 467 primates actually in labs in 1998. The true total is more than twice that listed by the USDA Animal Welfare Enforcement Report for 1998.
Now, if we examine the numbers for the state of Louisiana a similar phenomenon occurs. The numbers match for primates that are experimented on (7935), but another 5763 are listed for breeding purposes. That makes the real total for Louisiana 13,698. That is an omission of about 42%.
Are there any other examples of omission/inaccuracy? Unfortunately there are many. During fiscal 1998 Harvard Medical School reported experimenting on 293 primates and holding 43 on hand for breeding purposes. This is a very interesting report in light of the fact that the Harvard Medical School is the recipient of the NIH grant that funds the New England Regional Primate Research Center (NERPRC). This facility typically has well over 1000 primates on hand at any one time. The annual progress report filed by the NERPRC with the NIH (for 1998 - the reporting period differs from the USDA fiscal year by 1 month) lists a research colony of 887 and a breeding colony of 674 for a total of 1561. This is a discrepancy of over 1200 primates.
In the three instances discussed above the USDA numbers omitted 7265 primates, or over 46%. If this same level of error is applied to the total for primate usage, a total is reached (for fiscal 2000) of 106,515 primates who are currently imprisoned in labs across the United States.
Another problem exists with the AWER. The numbers can only be accurate on a national basis if all the labs are reporting on time. This seldom happens. For fiscal 2000 22 labs didn't report, or didn't report on time. Totals for previous years have been much higher.
The most striking part of this entire scenario is how much we simply don't know. While the USDA reports a total of over 57,000 primates in experimentation, we know that tens of thousands more primates are confined in labs for breeding purposes. We have also seen that at least some labs report their animal use inaccurately. The only thing we can really be certain of is that the death toll is unbearably high.
Our best estimates indicate that about 165 primates are experimented on every day, or about 60,000 per year. And another 40,000 spend their entire lives in the barren captivity of breeding colonies. Their lives are litanies of stress, deprivation, confinement, and loss. Either they are tortured in experimentation, or they have their priceless offspring ripped away from them to be fodder for the vivisection machine.
Their lives are our collective responsibilities. If we know anything right now it is that there is far too much we don't know. We must make it our mission to expose the suffering that these animals endure.
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