The Problem With Statistics

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 on collating national statistics on animals used in research and teaching in Australia.

Australia maintains no national collection or collation of animal use statistics, unlike many other countries. Even at state/territory level, there are 5-year 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.

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. It also means that there can be very limited assessment and planning of funding at a national level (such as public funding provided by the NHMRC or ARC).

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:

  • Only three states regularly collect and make the statistics publicly available – Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
  • 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. Furthermore, the responsibility of collection often changes departments. HRA also often finds discrepancies even within the data that is reported in a usable format.
  • 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. Therefore, our figures are approximate, some being based on averages, and thus usually represent very conservative numbers of total animal use. View the latest statistics available here.


Click here to view an outline of current state and territory statistic reporting situations

Victoria: Latest statistics available are from 2015, from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Biosecurity)

New South Wales: Latest statistics available are from 2016, from the Animal Research Review Panel (ARRP)

Tasmania: Latest statistics available are from 2016, from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment

Note that there is no full consistency between the three regularly reporting states above, though there are some similarities in reporting format.

South Australia: Latest statistics available are from 2009, from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of South Australia. Correspondence with HRA from the Animal Welfare Project Officer at the Department, on 23rd March 2015, indicated that statistics will no longer be collected by the Department. A Freedom of Information request was sent in May 2015, the determination of which is currently undergoing external review.

Queensland: Latest publicly available statistics are from 2004.

Western Australia: Latest statistics available are from 2016, from the WA Department of Agriculture and Food (but not publicly released).

Northern Territory: No record of statistics made available to the public. HRA's freedom of information request indicated that collection of statistics does occur, but responsibility for this has changed hands and a consistent reporting mechanism has not yet been established. Latest FOI-sourced statistics available are from 2009.

Australian Capital Territory: No record of statistics being made available to the public. Personal correspondence with HRA indicating that no territory-wide collection or collation occurs.


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.

Click here to view more detail on what needs to change

A recent project conducted by Dr Simon Bain and Kelly Debono, with the support of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, under the Australia Animal Welfare Strategy, put together a case for Australia needing national statistics of animals used for scientific purposes. The final project report concluded that Australian data needs to be collected at a Commonwealth level 'because the States and Territories do not have this as a priority and it is mostly poorly resourced at a state level'. Many state and territory departments have also identified this need. The project also provided an outline of a potential design and implementation of a national system to publicly report animal used for research and teaching.

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, i.e. the avoidance of generalistic terms
  • 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

Share: 

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, Greg Hunt.








Message
Use the text below or change it to compose your own message.

Dear Minister Hunt,

I was shocked to learn that Australia does not collect nor collate national statistics of animal use in research and teaching, and that even at state/territory level, that there are 5-year delays in reporting, extremely inconsistent collection and reporting methods between jurisdictions and institutions, and that some states and territories don't even collect statistics at all.

I strongly believe that 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.

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 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. It also means that there can be very limited assessment and planning of funding at a national level.

It is extremely important to have a nationally consistent and reliable procedure for reporting and publishing annual statistics on animal use in research and teaching in order to facilitate the maintenance of transparency and accountability in using animals for research and teaching, especially given much research is tax-payer funded.

I urge you to implement a framework for the national collection and collation of statistics of animals used in research and teaching.


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