The Belgian biomedical research sector has welcomed today the publication of comprehensive statistics (2019) from across the EU, including Belgium, on all uses of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research.
The headline figures in the European Commission report show that the total number of animals used in the EU in 2019 was 9,132,775 (similar to 2018 8,921,758). In 2019, 87% of the total were mice, fish and rats, whereas dogs, cats and monkeys account for just over 0.2% (2018 0.3%) of the total – those percentage figures also includes Norway.
The total is made up of animals used in basic and applied research, and regulatory studies aimed at ensuring the safety of medicines and other products, routine production and education and training.
EU statistics were also released for animal use in Belgium in 2019, although these have been superseded by the recent release of the 2020 statistics. The most used animals in Belgium in 2019 were mice, rabbits and fish, which represented 87% (2018 82%) of the total – dogs, cats and monkeys made up 0.17% (2018 0.08%) (see also Notes to Editors below).
Dogs can be used to test new drugs before clinical trials are conducted in humans, while monkeys are also used in drug testing and have played a significant role in research in AIDS and developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease, as well as the Covid-19 vaccine during the 2020-21 pandemic.
According to the EU statistics, the top three EU countries for animal use in 2019 were Germany 1,811,270 (2018 - 1,629,228); France 1,738,756 (2018 - 1,752,906) and the UK 1,681,383 (2018 - 1,749,901).
Belgium’s biomedical sector has confirmed its commitment to openness through a Transparency Agreement – signed by 18 institutions from both public and private research - to communicate in a more open way about how animals are used in research.
EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: “All Covid-19 vaccines were developed and tested using animals and they are also essential for our understanding of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. These figures demonstrate that the biomedical community has nothing to hide about its research using animals and will continue to bring its benefits to patients across Europe.”
Separate figures were also produced to record the number of animals used for the creation and maintenance of genetically altered animal lines, across the EU-28 (plus Norway) in 2019 this was 1,208,305 (2018 - 1,520,791).
For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday email@example.com on +44 (0)77 1552 5535
Notes to the editor
Animal research is strictly regulated under the EU Directive 2010/63. Every procedure, from a simple blood test to major surgery, requires individual, establishment and project licences, as well as approval from animal welfare and ethical review bodies.
All organisations are committed to the ‘3Rs’ of replacement, reduction and refinement. This means avoiding or replacing the use of animals where possible; minimising the number of animals used per experiment and optimising the experience of the animals to improve animal welfare. However, as institutions expand and conduct more research, the total number of animals used can rise even if fewer animals are used per study.
Since 2013, it has been illegal to sell or import cosmetics anywhere in the EU where the finished product or its ingredients have been tested on animals.
Dogs are currently being used to develop treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating muscle wasting disease that has no cure and ultimately leads to early death.
Like humans, non-human primates (NHPs) have a prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain involved in cognitive behaviour. This means that NHPs can help scientists understand how the brain works and help us develop treatments for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and OCD.
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information. It has 135 member organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 21 European countries and 28 in total across the globe.