Articles and Reports
Escalating Cost of Animal Experimentation:
Animal experimentation is an issue that raises controversy whenever it is discussed. It has been the center of controversy for almost two decades. Many activists feel so strongly that they are willing to risk their freedom to oppose what they see as the unremitting torture of millions of animals. Those associated with the institutions that fund and perform animal experiments believe that they are vital to medical progress.
However, one of the most controversial issues about animal experimentation is the direction in which it is going. No one seems to know if animal experimentation is increasing or decreasing. Are more animals being experimented on today than five years ago, or are fewer animals imprisoned in laboratories? Definitive answers to these questions are difficult to obtain. Accuracy is difficult because reporting requirements do not currently cover many of the most commonly used species. Therefore, we are left with a very incomplete picture.
Reports issued by the USDA on an annual basis are difficult to assess. While they seem to indicate trends, these trends are often fraught with uncertainty. The exclusion of commonly used species is one concern. Additionally, there seems to be a constant problem with reporting. Many labs simply seem not to file the necessary forms in time for their statistics to be included in this report. In the five year period between 1996 and 2000 there was not a single year when all facilities reported. In that period an average of 58 facilities per year did not report. If these non-reporting labs are facilities that experiment on 300 animals per year, then this is not particularly significant. If they happen to be labs that experiment on 50,000 animals a year, then the statistics could change dramatically.
Where does that leave us? Unfortunately nowhere. No other reports provide data which give a picture that is any better. Therefore we must generate our own information.
Unfortunately it is not possible to assess every aspect of animal experimentation. Private labs are often not particularly forthcoming with information, and government agencies can take months to turn over documents.
The National Institutes of Health is the largest single funding agency for animal experimentation in the U.S. Fortunately, the CRISP system is available. The CRISP (Computer Retrieved Information on Scientific Projects) database catalogues every project that the NIH funds anywhere. Evaluation of this database should give us a good indication of animal experimentation within the NIH, and by generalization throughout the rest of the government, and this can then potentially be generalized to represent animal experimentation as a whole.
This evaluation is based on searches on the following terms: mouse, rat, macaca (Latin species name for macaque monkeys), saimiri (Latin species name for squirrel monkeys), dog, cat, rabbit, guinea (to bring up grants involving guinea pigs without using the potentially confusing term pig), and hamster. While these terms will not give us an exhaustive picture, they should certainly suffice to provide a good measure of trends. Certain species were purposely not counted in an effort to allow for potential duplication. The tendency here has been to be conservative, and avoid overstating the situation.
Searches run on these terms will bring up a list of all NIH funded grants using these animals. This will not give us any information on specific animal use numbers, but it should reveal the number of different experiments that the NIH funds which utilize these species.
In general the trend appears to be towards an increase in animal experimentation. The total of all of the NIH funded projects involving the listed animals for 2001 is 29,441. This means that there are literally tens of thousands of different animal experiments funded by the NIH every year. The total for 1997 (a five year span) is 24,891. The increase from 1997 to 2001 is 4550 new grants, or an increase of 18.3%. The 1992 total is 21,448. Using this number we now have a ten-year span to examine. This shows an increase of 7993 projects or 37.3%.
There is some good news in this mélange of suffering and misery. The numbers of projects involving dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters have all decreased. The down side of this is that the experiments using macaque monkeys, squirrel monkeys, chimpanzees, baboons, rats, and mice have all increased, in some cases dramatically. Mouse projects have increased by almost 51% over the last five years, and by 127% since 1992. Chimpanzee experiments have increased by 81.3% in the last ten years. Baboon protocols have increased by 82% in the last ten years. Other species have seen slower increases over the last ten years with macaque monkey experiments increasing by 50% and squirrel monkey projects going up by a mere 36%.
This system will not yield a foolproof measure of animal experiments. The results are from only one government agency. This evaluation totally ignores any experiments within the National Science Foundation, the USDA, NASA, the Department of Defense, and many other governmental agencies. This examination also ignores privately funded experiments. This brief investigation is meant to give only trends in the most general terms. However, there is no real reason to believe that other entities, whether public or private, are moving in any other direction.
Lastly, we may be able to come up with a very general approximation of how much the NIH spends on animal experiments every year. The NIH publishes average dollar amounts per grant. For the year 2000 the average grant was $291,502. For 2000 there were 29855 projects listed from our searches. This gives us a potential total of $8,702792,210. There are another 651 projects involving species that were not mentioned above. However, for a final estimate we should be conservative. The use of the CRISP system introduces a potential for duplication in the searches discussed above (i.e. the same grant could use more than one species and therefore show up in the totals multiple times). This can be counteracted to some degree by the non-inclusion of the 651 projects listed above. And, again, to be conservative, I would estimate that the NIH spends between $8 – $8.5 billion a year on animal experiments. This estimate is also on the conservative side because it does not include a component for the indirect costs associated with all NIH grants.
This should give us some idea of the size of the bureaucratic edifice that we are opposing. We are not speaking about some small agency with a tiny budget. This bureaucracy has a budget equal to that of a large multi-national corporation, and the prestige & power to match.
The issue we are really dealing with here is as much economic as scientific. The NIH is one of the primary funding bodies for an entire industry. And the corporate partners of the NIH, your friendly neighborhood laboratories, don’t want to lose their piece of the pie. How much do specific facilities receive? The table below will list some of the largest labs in terms of NIH funding. Suffice it to say that it is not at all uncommon for a facility (a university or other laboratory) to receive over $100,000,000 from the NIH in any given year. Please remember that these are not exact totals. They are approximations meant to give general ideas of how much funding these labs receive from the NIH for performing animal experiments.
*Note: for these facilities the amounts derived from grants associated with the species macaca and saimiri have been replaced with the fiscal 1999 totals for primate experimentation contained in progress reports for the Regional Primate Research Centers associated with these universities.
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