UBC releases animal statistics for 2016 – we take a closer look

On November 28, 2017 UBC released animal statistics for 2016. At AiSPI we are delighted to see that the number of animals used in science at UBC decreased 10% between 2015-2016. Let’s take a closer look at the data.

Types of animals used

Reptiles and amphibians23,96923,004
Small mammals1,341332
Large mammals2,95610,385
Marine mammals30393

The categories of animals used show decreases in the use of fish, reptiles and amphibians, small mammals, and marine mammals. However, there were increases seen in the use of rodents, birds and large mammals. Large mammals can include agricultural animals, so the large increase in numbers may well be due to an agricultural study (though this is speculation). Without data on exact species used it is challenging to get an idea of why animal numbers might have increased or decreased between 2015-2016. Other large animals used in research at UBC include pigs and non-human primates.

Purpose of animal use

The UBC animal use data is broken down by Purpose of Animal Use. These categories are:

  1. Studies of a fundamental nature in science relating to essential structure or function
  2. Studies for medical purposes, including veterinary medicine, that relate to human or animal diseases or disorders
  3. Studies for regulatory testing of products for the protection of humans, animals, or the environment
  4. Studies for the development of products or appliances for human or veterinary medicine
  5. Education and training of individuals in post-secondary institutions or facilities

In reporting the data UBC add an extra category, “0”, for breeding animals, and group together categories 3 & 4 under the heading “regulatory testing.”

Fundamental research121,44698,553
Medical/veterinary research60,50958,613
Regulatory testing1,3914,418

From the breakdown of numbers according to purpose of animal use, the data shows  decreases in the use of animals for fundamental research and medical/veterinary research, but increases in the use of animals for regulatory testing, education and breeding.

The decrease in the number of animals in fundamental research is a trend that AiSPI encourages. This is the most challenging use of animals to find non-animal replacements for.

The increase in animals used for regulatory testing at UBC is disappointing to see given the hard work being done to create and implement non-animal alternatives for the safety and efficacy testing of drugs and other products. In addition, the increase in the use of animals in education is also disappointing: many highly effective non-animal alternatives for education exist, so at AiSPI we would very much like to see this number be significantly recused in future years.

Categories of Invasiveness

The UBC animal use data is also divided into Categories of Invasiveness, that is, the category of potential harm that animals may experience as a result of being used for experimental or teaching purposes. The Categories of Invasiveness are as follows:

  • Category A: Experiments on most invertebrates or live isolates
  • Category B: Experiments which cause little to no discomfort or stress
  • Category C: Experiments which cause minor stressor pain of short duration
  • Category D: Experiments which cause moderate to severe distress or discomfort
  • Category E: Procedures which cause severe pain near, at, or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized conscious animals
Category of Invasiveness20152016

At AiSPI we are delighted that no animals were assigned to Category E in both 2015 and 2016. We encourage UBC to keep this trend going!

From the data breakdown it is clear that most animals were assigned to Category D in both 2015 and 2016. We would like to see a significant reduction in the number of animals assigned to his category in future years.