World Animal Liberation Week
Animal experimentation is one of the most controversial
issues that confront 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
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
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
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
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
[Editor's Note: Don't forget WWAIL - April 20-28]
World Week for Animals in Laboratories
Go on to A Look From The Other Side
Return to 7 April 2002 Issue
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