Still to this day a gigantic number of animal tests are being executed yearly. In the Netherlands there are around 80 so called permit holders, who are permitted to legally execute experiments on animals. These locations have in 2017 alone enforced a total of 530.568 tests in animals. That is an increase of 17,9% (80.694 tests) compared to 2016. Worldwide the estimate for the amount of individual animals used in tests lies around 115 million annually?

When we look at the numbers of 2017 (when the information about 2018 will be publicised this article will of course be updated), we can see that almost half of the research conducted on animals concentrates on “basic scientific research”. More precisely we are talking about 41,7%. In addition, the by law required toxicological tests are represented by 13,5% of the total and 10,5% for quality control.
It is very remarkable that, even though only 0,1% of the total (around 530 animals), animals are still being used for forensic research. Education has taken up 4,6% of the total amount of animals. It does not sound like a lot, but when applied to a total of 530.568 it amounts to a lot of individuals.

A lot of the animals being used come from the breeding market of Europe (including genetically altered animals; 27,9%). Animals from the wild are still being captured to be experimented on, a sum of 2% of the total.

The animals
Different animals are used for different experiments. In the Netherlands due to a ‘code of ethics’, testing on great apes is illegal. Up until 2004 there were still experiments being conducted on chimpanzees. Dozens of animals were relocated to permanent shelters.

Apes: in the Netherlands there are multiple locations that still keep apes as laboratory animals. However on European scale there are still 10.000 apes being experimented on annually, the ‘epicentre’ is located in Rijswijk (NL), which houses the largest animal testing laboratory for apes in Europe; the Biomedical Primate Research Centre. Undercover material from this research centre have been released less than a year ago. Many of the apes are from Hartelust (Tilburg), which amongst others imports apes who are captured from the wild in Cambodia and Vietnam. Of these 10.000 apes, 67% will have to undergo safety tests and toxicological tests of pharmaceutical producers. For instance testing if a certain product will cause damage to eyes or ears, or has results for the functioning of reproductive organs or can cause hallucinations. The other 33% of the apes will have to undergo tests in the medical sector. This ranges from brain research to organ transplants and from the flu to addictions. Even though there were plans to open a centre that would test on apes in Maastricht, this is now out of the question. Currently there are no apes in the animal testing laboratory in Maastricht.

Dogs: especially beagles are much desired for their supposed ‘soft’ character, but during the last couple of years a lot of other breeds have been used in experiments as well. The University of Maastricht stopped testing on dogs altogether after the uprising about testing on Labradors. Before there were experiments done on rejected police dogs in the same location. The amount of dogs used in tests in 2017 (909 dogs) is already dozens of times higher then in 2016 (656 dogs). The amount of dogs that do not get to survive the experiments is significantly higher; 50% compared to the year before and 41% the year before that. Dogs are very popular to use for tests concerning cardiovascular disease. Other than that the most diverse researches are also done onto them; from research on teeth & gums to cancer, and pharmaceutical research to epilepsy.

Cats: in 2016 there were merely 89 cats used in tests on animals, while in 2017 this number already arose to 200. This rising use seems to have become an ongoing trend, seeing as in 2015 only 61 cats were used in the Netherlands. Cats are popular “research objects” for among other researches like respiratory diseases. Also a infamous test is used where kittens are being deprived of sight for months, after which they are killed to study the effects these operations have on the brain. Other experiments are for example studies on the musculoskeletal system (where the spine of the cat is distorted so that they are unable to move their limbs accordingly)

Rabbits: a very beloved species to experiment on, if we look at the numbers. As we see that rabbits in the Netherlands mainly get pathogens injected where after the body is expected to create anti-bodies. These are then extracted. When in the whole of the Netherlands during 2016 there were “only” 8579 rabbits were used in experiments, this number rose to 9764 in a single year. The numbers of 2018 are still to come but this trend does not bode well. Of these rabbits 171 were genetically manipulated. Other occurring experiments are among others the administering of substances during pregnancy to see what the effects are on their baby’s, and to prematurely abort/manipulate the pregnancy’s to create deformed rabbits (or ones that were born too early) to study them, or to test vaccines.

Sheep: when thinking about animals used for animal testing, people usually don’t think about sheep. Yet these individuals are also subjected to tests every day. Although the amount of sheep used nowadays is lower than in 2015 (when the number of sheep tested on was 2126), since then it is increasing. In 2016, 438 sheep were used, and in 2017 this number was risen to 558 sheep. These animals are, among others, used to inject faeces into the abdominal cavity and they have to undergo experiments on unborn lambs who are still in the womb. Besides that there are also sheep who have been used to test for cardiovascular diseases, cartilage diseases and pulmonary diseases.

Pigs: Another example of an animal that is used for animal testing, but people often don’t expect them to be, is the pig. The amount of pigs tested on has decreased, but compared to 2015 (8402) the amount has risen. In 2016, 10.129 pigs were forced to undergo tests, and in 2017 the amount of pigs used dropped to 9738. These animals are often used in research that focuses on burns, brain damage, diseases of the bladder and urinary tract, eye impairments and respiratory illnesses. Pigs are also often the victims of xenotransplantation, even though these procedures so far have not been successful. Pigs are also frequently made available for students, to learn and to do small-scale studies.

More information on animal testing will be added to the website in the coming weeks.