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To investigate long-term trends of animal use, the EU animal use statistics from the 15 countries that have been in the EU since 1995 plus respective data from Switzerland were analyzed. The overall number of animals used for scientific purposes in these countries, i.e., about 11 million/year, remained relatively constant between 1995 and 2011, with net increases in Germany and the UK and net decreases in Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden. The relatively low and constant numbers of experimental animals used for safety assessment (toxicology, 8%) may be due to the particularly intensive research on alternative methods in this area. The many efficiently working NGOs, multiple initiatives of the European Parliament, and coordinated activities of industry and the European Commission may have contributed to keeping the animal numbers in this field in check.
Basic biological science, and research and development for medicine, veterinary and dentistry together currently make up 65% of animal use in science. Although the total numbers have remained relatively constant, consumption of transgenic animals has increased drastically; in Germany transgenic animals accounted for 30% of total animal use in 2011. Therefore, more focus on alternatives to the use of animals in biomedical research, in particular on transgenic animals, will be important in the future. One initiative designed to provide inter-sector information exchange for future actions is the “MEP – 3Rs scientists pairing scheme” initiated in 2015 by CAAT-Europe and MEP Pietikäinen.
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