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DATA ON ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION IN THE UNITED STATES: WHAT THEY DO AND DO NOT SHOW F. BARBARA ORLANS* When Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in 1966, it recognized that keeping proper records is an essential part of responsible animal experimentation. To assure public accountability, Congress required that research facilities that use certain species of animals shall register with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and "shall submit ... an annual report [showing] the common names and approximate numbers of animals upon which research, experiments, or tests were conducted." The reports are stored on a computerized data base and used to generate an annual report to Congress on numbers and species of animals used. Experiments are categorized according to the use or non-use of anesthesia, and the report lists the number of USDA-registered animal facilities inspected for compliance with the AWA during the last year. Such data collection is an important part of government programs and oversight in all fields ofactivity—scientific research, economic activities , demographic changes, and disease incidence and control, to mention a few. National data serve several purposes. If properly focused to address public concerns, national data can be used to help define issues and problems. Data provide the scientific community and the public with an understanding of the facts underlying arguments over policy. Data provide a basis for informed discussion of public policy. They can show past and current progress toward the achievement of certain established mandates—and shortfalls as well. National data can help identify where more needs to be done and provide guidance on what new policies would be most appropriate. Do the official statistics on laboratory animals, as currently designed, achieve these purposes? Are the questions being asked by USDA keeping pace with today's needs? With a few exceptions, the questions asked *Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, 20057.© 1994 by The University of Chicago. AU rights reserved. 003 1 -5982/94/3702-0853$01 .00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 37, 2 ¦ Winter 1994 217 by USDA today are not much different from those asked ten or twenty years ago, yet the provisions of public policy have changed quite dramatically over time. Several amendments have been passed to the AWA, and each has strengthened the requirements and oversight [I]. Nowadays , more is expected from investigators in terms of controlling animal pain and avoiding unnecessary duplication of experiments. But the official data are not capturing information on these new provisions. Arguments will be presented to show that, by today's standards, the official data on use of laboratory animals are deficient in important respects. Questions asked by USDA on the record-keeping forms have remained unchanged for too long. Data are incomplete in scope, and the USDA fails to ask some important questions. Substantial revisions are called for. What the Data Show: Coverage and Gaps The species of animals currently covered by the AWA are nonhuman primates, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and certain other species. Species not currently covered by the regulations are rats, mice, and birds, which probably comprise some 80 to 90 percent of all animals used. Their exclusion means that the vast majority of animals used are inadequately protected and uncounted. Because of this gap, no reliable data exist on the total number of animals used. Estimates diverge widely, from 17 to 70 million animals. What data we do have are shown in figure 1, which includes all years for which USDA data are available. (Throughout this article, data for the United States are taken from the annual Animal Welfare Enforcement reports to Congress compiled by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA.) Figure 1 demonstrates that between 1973 and 1991 there was a peak use of AWA-protected animals in 1984—85 but no consistent trend either before or after that date. The numbers range from a low of 1,378,000 in 1975 to a high of 2,154,000 in 1985. To my knowledge, no one has commented on or explored what the 1984-1985 peak signified; USDA official Richard L. Crawford had no explanation for the increase (personal communication, May 24, 1991). Nor has anyone...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 217-232
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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