Statistics of Animal Use in Research and Teaching in Australia
The Problem With Statistics
Australia maintains no national system for 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collection and reporting methods between jurisdictions and institutions, some states collate statistics but do not publish them, and some states and territories don’t even collect statistics at all.
This is despite the passing of a motion calling for increased transparency in animal research.
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. However, it should be emphasised that not all research reported is harmful to the animals concerned, such as observational research, and large numbers may be reported in this category, which has a significant impact on the totals.
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. HRA is appreciative of the States that do collate and report annual statistics, along with comprehensive reports analysing the data.
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 based on historical averages which are extremely dated and will not represent annual trends.
- There is significant inconsistency between states/territories, due to variable institutional reporting methods and differing animal welfare legislation, for example in the reporting of the use of crustaceans and cephalopods
- 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.
- Some categories are quite broad, such as ‘understanding human or animal biology’ or ‘Maintenance and improvement of human or animal health and welfare’ and it is therefore difficult to distinguish whether animals or humans were the intended beneficiary.
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. HRA has therefore made the decision to refuse to take on this responsibility with 2018 being the last year we will publish our data.
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?
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.