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.
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
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 tell us?
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.
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
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.