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Laboratory Animal Statistics

Do Animal Experiments Require Approval?

The performance of animal experiments in Germany is strictly regulated by law. This is based on Article 20a of Basic Law, the Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Welfare Laboratory Animal Ordinance. If you want to conduct animal experiments, you must first obtain approval from the competent authority in the respective federal state. The application for approval of an animal experiment is very extensive. In the application, scientists must describe exactly the purpose for which the animal experiment is to be performed, which methods are to be used and how high the stress on the animals is estimated to be. In addition, the number and type of animals used must be justified and it must be explained what happens to the animals after the end of the experiment. In addition, the staff who carry out the animal experiments and take care of the animals must prove that they have the appropriate qualifications and experience. The competent authority is supported by a commission when deciding whether to approve an animal experiment.

Where Can I Find Information on Approved Animal Testing?

As soon as an animal experiment is approved, a generally comprehensible summary of the project must be published. This contains information on the purpose of the experiment, the type and number of animals and the expected stress caused by the experiment. It also describes what measures have been taken to reduce the number of animals used and to improve the welfare of the experimental animals before, during and after the experiment.

The BfR publishes these summaries in the searchable database known as AnimalTestInfo. Since this page contains an entry for every animal experiment approved in Germany, it provides an overview of all possible animal experiments. Animal tests that have already been completed can also be researched in AnimalTestInfo. The animal numbers and stress information published in AnimalTestInfo should be understood as upper limits.

How Many Animals Are Actually Used in Experiments?

The actual figures on the test animals used and their stress levels are recorded separately every year and subject to statistical analysis.

The current number of laboratory animals for Germany for 2020 can be found here.

At national level, the annual reporting of laboratory animals is regulated in the Ordinance on the reporting of vertebrates or cephalopods used for experimental purposes or vertebrates used for other specific purposes (Laboratory Animal Reporting Ordinance), which is based on the specifications of Implementing Decision 2020/569/EU Annex III. Anyone who has carried out animal experiments must first notify the competent  authority. Since 2021, the competent authorities have then reported the figures to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). The reports contain, among other things, information about the animal species used, the degree of severity of the experiments and the purpose of the experiment. In addition, they receive information on the use of genetically modified animals and the number of animals that have been killed for scientific purposes but not used in animal experiments. The figures for the years 2009 to 2019 can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (here).

Where Can I Find Information on Animal Numbers from Other EU Member States?

The number of experimental animals collected for Germany is also reported to the European Commission. This publishes the laboratory animal data of all EU member states in the Animals used for scientific purposes database. ALURES consists of 3 parts: Part 1 includes the experimental animals used for the first time in an experiment. Part 2 gives an overview of the sum of single and repeated use. Part 3 looks at the genetically modified animals used to create a new line of animals or to maintain an existing line.

In addition, the EU member states must collect data every 5 years on how many animals were bred for experiments but not used in animal experiments. These figures were first recorded for 2017 and published in the EU Commission's Statistics Report. The EU is therefore taking a leading role in reporting transparently on animal experiments1. The statistics show that 12.5 million animals across the EU could not be used in animal experiments because they were, e.g. used exclusively for breeding, did not express the right gene or had the wrong sex. Of these, 83% mice, 10% fish and 4% rats were affected. In comparison, an average of 9.5 million animals are used in animal experiments every year in the EU. This shows how important it is to develop strategies to reduce the number of so-called surplus animals. One approach is, for example, improving breeding management2 or careful study planning supported by preregistration3. In addition, the conditions of the test animals outside the experiment must also be improved.4

1 Cut back on surplus laboratory animals. Lewejohann L et al. 2020 Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/d41586-020-00517-3

2e. g. https://nc3rs.org.uk/colony-management-best-practice

3Refining animal research: The Animal Study Registry. Bert B et al. 2019 PLoS Biol, DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000463

4Impulse for animal welfare outside the experiment. Lewejohann L et al. 2020 Laboratory Animals, DOI: 10.1177/0023677219891754

 

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