10 Oct 2014

Animal experiment numbers falling

9:17 am on 10 October 2014

The number of animals used in research, testing and teaching continues to fall. But 224,048 animals, birds and fish were used for those purposes last year.

The annual report of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee says 25.9 percent fewer animals were used for research, testing and teaching in 2013 than in the previous year - the lowest number since 1997.

Production animals - cattle, sheep, deer, goats and pigs - made up 45.3 percent of the animals used, mainly for husbandry and veterinary research, as well as basic biological research and testing the safety and efficacy of animal health products.

Rodents and rabbits accounted for 26.5 percent.

More than 64 percent of animals were returned to their normal environment following their use in experiments, and more than 97 percent of farm animals survived.

However, nearly all of the rabbits and rodents (97 percent) died or were euthanased.

The chair of the Animal Ethics Advisory Committee, Dr Virginia Williams, says the drop in numbers is gratifying and the committee is focused on encouraging the 'Three Rs' approach.

That means reducing the numbers of animals used in experiments, replacing them with alternative testing techniques, and refining experimental techniques and general husbandry to minimise or eliminate suffering.

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