Statistics of Animal Use in Research and Teaching in Australia

Humane Research Australia (HRA) works to ensure that animal experiments are continually under scrutiny in Australia. Part of our work in this area involves working each year to collate national statistics on animals used in research and teaching in Australia.

The Problem With Statistics

Australia maintains no national collection or collation of animal use statistics, unlike many other countries. Even at state/territory level, there are lengthy delays in reporting, extremely inconsistent collection and reporting methods between jurisdictions and institutions, and some states and territories don’t even collect statistics at all.

Due to the difficulty in obtaining statistics, and discrepancies in data provided, it is difficult to create a comprehensive picture of the national use of animals in research and teaching. Hence, HRA’s figures usually represent very conservative numbers of total animal use.

The lack of statistics collation at a national level, and even at state/territory level, means that the 3Rs principles (Refining, Reducing, and Replacing animal use in research), or any other national policies that aim to limit the use of animals in research and teaching, are very difficult to implement, given that there is no accurate way of measuring change.

Inadequacy of the system

The current statistics reporting system in Australia is state- and territory-based. This system is inadequate for a number of reasons:

  • Not all states regularly collect and make the statistics publicly available – this means we can only estimate statistics in some states.
  • There is significant inconsistency between states/territories, and even within them due to variable institutional reporting methods.
  • There is no standardised format for the collection or reporting of statistics.
  • Procedure severity categorisation is determined by indicative rather than the actual level of impact.

Due to the difficulty in obtaining statistics from states and territories, and discrepancies in data, it is difficult to collate an accurate picture of the national use of animals in research and teaching.

International precedents

Australia has a responsibility to follow the example of other jurisdictions, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and New Zealand, and set up an annual national animal use report system. Given that Canada, with over 10 provinces, and the European Union, made up over 28 member nations, effectively collect and collate statistics, it is very difficult for Australia to make the case that it is ‘too difficult’ to collect national statistics in a uniform format from our 8 states and territories.

What needs to change

There is a critical need to set up a national framework for the collection and collation of national statistics of animals used in research.

It is essential that we have a nationally consistent and reliable procedure for reporting and publishing annual statistics on animal use in research and teaching – particularly in order to facilitate transparency and accountability, especially given much research is tax-payer funded.

The reporting of national statistics and relevant analysis is also important to make them meaningful, informative, and understandable to the general public, and thereby allow for open and honest debate around animal experimentation.

There is a need for:

  • National consistency of reporting criteria, e.g. categories relating to species, severity of procedure, and purpose of procedure
  • Deadlines for institutional reporting to state/territory and federal level data collection process
  • Deadlines for the national collation of this data and the publication of an annual report assessing this data on a timely basis each year
  • Data collection from a central agency at a Commonwealth level, and the proper allocation of funding and regulatory resources to facilitate this

Additionally, HRA would like to see:

  • More comprehensive and accurate category breakdown of the ‘purpose of research’ and ‘severity of research’ categories
  • Details on the amount of research that was publicly funded
  • Increased openness and transparency in research through the provision of details on what (if any) benefit was obtained

If no statistics are being made available, what are they hiding?

Take action

Please use the form below to urge the Federal Minister for Agriculture to implement a framework for the national collection and collation of statistics of animals used in research and teaching.

Your message will be sent via email to the Minister.

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