The European Commission has published its 2019 report on animal use for scientific purposes in the EU in 2015-2017. This is the first report compiled according to changed reporting requirements and covers areas of animal use that were not included previously, limiting comparison with previous reports. The report identifies issues with severity reporting as well as consistency of reporting animal use for the maintenance of genetically altered animals. The report also voices concern with the use of animals in areas where alternative methods have reached regulatory acceptance (e.g. skin irritation/corrosion, serious eye damage/eye irritation and pyrogenicity testing) and calls for further attention by the authorities authorizing projects for these use purposes.
The numbers of animals used for the first time for research and testing were 9.59 million (2015), 9.82 million (2016) and 9.39 million (2017) in comparison to almost 11.5 million reported in 2011 (see caveats above). The numbers of procedures (including reuse of animals) were higher by 2% than the number of animals used for the first time in each reported year. The numbers of animals used for the first time for the creation and maintenance of genetically altered (GA) animal lines were 1.59 million (2015), 1.19 million (2016) and 1.28 million (2017).
In 2017, of the animals used for research and testing for the first time, mice, fish, rats and birds together represented 92%. Species of particular public concern (dogs, cats and non-human primates) represented less than 0.3%. No Great Apes were used. While between 2015 and 2017 there was a decrease in the number of amphibians, cephalopods and reptiles (-42%), hamsters (-37%), horses, donkeys and cross-breeds (-25%), and birds (-11%), there was an increase in the numbers of sheep and goats (+9%), cattle (+14%) and non-human primates (NHP) (15%).
2% of the animals used were born outside of the EU; 90% were born in the EU at a registered breeder. However, of the NHPs, only 14% were born in the EU at a registered breeder; most were imported from Africa or Asia. 30% of all NHPs came from self-sustained colonies and 53% were second or higher generation purpose-bred. No NHP used for the first time was captured from the wild in 2017.
In 2017, the main purpose of animal use was research (69%). Subcategories are basic research (45%), translational and applied research (23%), regulatory use (23%) and routine production (5%). Other main purposes were protection of the natural environment in the interest of the health or welfare of human beings or animals, preservation of species, higher education or training for the acquisition, maintenance or improvement or vocational skills and forensic enquiries.
In 2017, severity was categorized as mild (51%), moderate (32%), severe (11%) and non-recovery (6%). Severe uses increased from 2015 to 2016 from 8 to 11%. Batch potency testing resulted in the highest number of severe uses (> 264k). Within a sub-category, the proportion of severity was highest (70%) for production of monoclonal antibodies by the ascites method, followed by diagnosis of diseases (54%) and acute toxicity studies in the area of ecotoxicity (37%).
39% of regulatory uses in 2017 were for toxicity and other safety testing: this amounts to 8% of all animal use. 79% of quality control related uses were for batch potency testing purposes in 2017.
Of GA animals, 17% exhibited a harmful phenotypic alternation. Zebra fish (64%) and mice (38%) were the most common GA species. In 2017, 658K animal uses were carried out to create new GA animal lines. The use of GA NHPs was reported for the first time in the EU in 2017. The use of animals for maintaining colonies of established GA animal lines decreased between 2015 and 2017 from 1 million to 0.6 million.