The Animal Experimentation Scandal:
Animal experimentation is an issue that has raised controversy for decades. Animal rights activists have held hundreds of protests on this issue. The pro-experimentation lobby opposes any new regulation of the field.
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 ten years ago, or are fewer animals imprisoned in laboratories? Is more money being spent on animal experimentation? Are more projects being funded? 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/APHIS (the government agency charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act) on an annual basis are difficult to assess. While they seem to indicate trends, these trends are often fraught with uncertainty. The exclusion of the most commonly used species (rats, mice, birds, amphibians, etc.) from the regulatory process 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 six-year period between 1996 and 2001 there was not a single year when all facilities reported. With significant amounts of experimentation centered in certain large labs, non-reporting by even a few labs can substantially skew national totals. Additionally, major reporting inconsistencies have been uncovered regarding both the compilation process used by the USDA and the accuracy of the reports filed by major facilities. Therefore, it is highly likely that the USDA statistics often utilized as a basis for examinations of animal experimentation trends may be flawed beyond repair.
Where does that leave us? Unfortunately, nowhere. No other reports provide data which give a picture that is any more accurate about how many animals are actually in laboratories. Therefore we have undertaken a different method of assessing the direction of animal experimentation.
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 CRISP (Computer Retrieved Information on Scientific Projects) database catalogues every research project funded by seven different parts of the federal government via a grant, whether it involves animals or clinical research. Evaluation of this database provides a good indication of animal experimentation within these agencies and, by generalization, throughout the rest of the government. This can then potentially be generalized to represent animal experimentation as a whole.
This report is based on fiscal 2005 information from the NIH CRISP system. It will address overall trends in animal experimentation funding as well as funding estimates for specific facilities. Several areas of highly duplicative research will also be discussed, and the duplication issue will be related to specific facilities.
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