Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft) has produced its 2016 annual statistics on animal research procedures for Germany. These statistics have seen some big changes from previous years and we will attempt to show comparisons according to the different methodologies used. Germany produces two sets of data as part of the Animal Protection Act.
7(2) – procedures on animals
4(3) – animals killed solely for tissues or organs without any prior procedures
Historically, Germany has used data from animals used under both §7(2) and §4(3) of the Animal Protection Act to create a dataset of animals used in research. This dataset was broken down by varying categories including use, severity, genetic status and more. This year, while the old totals can be seen, the main datasets are numbers of procedures on animals, excluding animals killed for tissues or organs (under §4(3)). This newer methodology puts Germany in line with the EU reporting requirements for animals in research – allowing for easier comparisons between countries.
In 2016, Germany reported 2,189,261 procedures on animals, up 7.1% from 2015. The number of animals is slightly lower at 2,131,448 (due to some animals being used in more than one procedure during 2016).
There was a large rise in the use of fish (266,502 +72%) and birds (47,256 +20%), while rabbit use dropped (98,339 -11%). There were falls in the use of dogs (3,976 -11%), cats (766 -31%) and primates (2,418 -22%), which together accounted for less than 0.4% of all procedures.
The number of animals used, including those used for harvesting tissues and organs (but not used in any procedure), rose 1.6% to 2,796,773 animals. The fact this rise was smaller than the rise in procedures was because the number of animals used for harvesting tissues/organs dropped 12% from 754,997 (2015) to 665,325 (2016). This may reflect more effective efforts to share tissues/organs to ensure the most use can be made of any single animal killed for this purpose.
Mice are disproportionally used for harvesting tissues/organs, while cats were not used at all for this purpose, dogs only used once, and primates only 44 times.
Mice, fish and rats together accounted for around 90% of all animal procedures in Germany in 2016. Germany remains one of the few European countries where rabbits are the fourth most commonly used species in 2016. Dogs, cats and primates accounted for 0.32% of all animals, despite a doubling in the number of animals used for these species.
In previous years, Germany conducted its retrospective assessment and reporting on severity using numbers of animals. This year, in line with EU reporting requirements, they are done by procedure. This means comparisons to 2015 are meaningless as a large chunk of “non-recovery” procedures (all those where animals are killed for harvesting tissues without any procedure prior) are removed. Overall 71.7% were Non-recovery (234,679) or Mild (1,334,894), 23.1% were Moderate (504,864) and (114,824) were Severe.
Other interesting information provided by the annual statistical release includes:
99% of animals used were bred within the EU [Table 3]
The main purpose of research procedures was “Basic Research” (53.7%), followed by “Regulatory use and Routine production” (25.4%), and “Translational and Applied Research” (14.2%) [Table 9]
Two-thirds (64.9%) of the total dogs, cats and primate procedures were used for Regulatory testing. A quarter (23.6%) were used for Translational and Applied Research [Table 9]
42.4% of animals were genetically altered, compared with 63.6% which were not. Over 97% of the genetically altered animals were mice or zebrafish