Press Releases

Rep. Roybal-Allard Calls on NIH to Count and Reduce the Number of Animals Used in Experiments

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Washington, September 13, 2019 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
In response to growing concerns about the use of animals in laboratory experiments, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) has requested the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to keep and make public a basic inventory of the number of animals it uses in intramural research, and to reduce this number over time. Congresswoman Roybal-Allard is the Vice Chairwoman of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees and funds the NIH. 

In her letter to NIH Director Francis Collins, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard states: “The NIH has publicly stated that reducing the number of animals used in biomedical research is an important agency priority. However, currently the NIH is unable to quantify and make public the exact number of animals, including those not covered by the Animal Welfare Act, that are annually used in intramural biomedical research. This lack of an inventory system constitutes a barrier toward its own stated goal of reducing the number of animals used in biomedical research.” 

Under current federal law, the majority of animals used in laboratories are not considered to be “animals” under the Animal Welfare Act, and as such, are not precisely quantified by the NIH. The information Congresswoman Roybal-Allard calls for would provide transparency into how many animals of all species are being used in NIH research facilities, and whether the NIH is effectively reducing the animals’ use in accordance with the NIH’s stated goal. 

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard is requesting that the NIH provide a public report with the exact number and species of all animals used by the agency, which the NIH has never been required to do. Additionally, she is asking for a plan to reduce the number of animals used in experiments. Specifically, she is requesting that the NIH provide:

1.            The total number of animals used in research for fiscal year 2018,
               a.            By each individual intramural NIH facility;
               b.            Identified and grouped by animal species; 
2.            The number of animals euthanized in fiscal year 2018;
3.            A detailed methodology for obtaining such a count of animals;
4.            The percentage of funds expended by each national research institute on biomedical and behavioral research that involved the use of animals, in comparison to funds spent on such research that did not involve the use of animals; and 
5.            A plan outlining how the NIH will achieve a reduction in its number of animals used in NIH-funded research, as well as an estimate of the percent reduction over the next five fiscal years. 

“The NIH has publicly stated that reducing the number of animals it uses in biomedical research is an important agency priority,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard. “However, it has been unable to quantify and make public the exact number of animals used annually in NIH intramural biomedical research, including animals not covered by the Animal Welfare Act. Without this information, Congress cannot determine what progress the NIH is making toward its own stated goal of reducing the number of animals it uses. This report would remove these barriers between Congress and the NIH.

“If the Pentagon can count the number of bullets it uses in a fiscal year, the NIH should be able to count the number of all animals that it uses--and often kills--in experiments,” said Mike Ryan, Policy Director at the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS). “NIH often talks about reducing animal numbers, and now thanks to Rep. Roybal-Allard we may be able to learn whether this is more than just a talking point.”

“NIH has squandered animal lives and research dollars and come up short on cures for human disease,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “We’re grateful to Rep. Roybal-Allard for leading the way to solid scientific research that is relevant to human physiology.” 

“Speaking as a scientist with direct experience in animal experiments, I strongly support Rep. Roybal-Allard’s request. It’s time for NIH to be more transparent about the number of animals that suffer in experiments,” said John Gluck, former primate experimenter and Professor Emeritus at University of New Mexico.

According to Pew Research, as of 2018, a majority (52%) of Americans oppose animal experimentation. 


About NEAVS: Established in 1895 and headquartered in Boston, MA, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) works to end the use of animals in medical experiments.

About PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide.

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