For the first time, a new EU report gives an overview of the animals used in Europe for research purposes. According to this, 10.7 million animals were used in animal experiments in the EU in 2017. In addition, 12.6 million animals were bred and killed for scientific purposes, but were not used in animal experiments. These include, for example, those that are necessary to maintain genetically modified animal strains.
The report for 2015 to 2017 is intended to supplement the annual animal experiment statistics. The EU Commission wants to use it to improve transparency. It includes Information about the authorities responsible for animal testing in the individual member states, education and training of people involved in animal testing, approval and rejection of projects requested, inspections of animal testing facilities and also data about “all other animals” that are not recorded in the annual statistics.
The EU report also includes the number of animals bred and killed but not used in animal experiments. For example, organs or tissues for cell lines or organoids were removed from some of these animals. Others served to create or maintain genetically modified animal strains.
“These are healthy zebrafish or mice, which are there to have offspring at the time when you need an animal experiment and live without pain or impairment,” explained the director of the Institute for Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) Austrian Academy of Sciences, Jürgen Knoblich, opposite the APA news agency.
Part of quality assurance
Such animals would also be needed in order to know their genetic and biological background, for example. This increases the scientific quality and reliability of the results. “You can avoid the worst of it, namely that you have to repeat an animal experiment,” says Knoblich.
Many experiments also require a certain number of animals of one sex or of a certain age. A large number of animals must be bred for this.
Numerous projects are underway in the EU and Switzerland with the aim of reducing animal testing and replacing it if possible. These efforts are summarized under the “3R principle”, in English: “reduce, refine, replace”.
In Switzerland, the number of animals used for animal testing is declining. According to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), 586,643 animals were used in 2018, almost 28,000 fewer than in 2017. This corresponds to a decrease of 4.6 percent.