Science - March 10, 2016

Increase in animal testing

Roelof Kleis

In 2014 Wageningen University used more than 14,000 animals for experiments, almost ten percent more than the previous year. The figures come from the latest Zodoende report from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. Wageningen University used nearly 5000 chickens in experiments in 2014. In clear second place were fish (more than 3700) and in third place, pigs, at over 1700.

But there is no cause for concern about the increased use of animals, according to animal testing expert Rob Steenmans of Corporate Education, Research and Innovation. The numbers fluctuate from year to year, with a drop of more than 13 percent recorded in 2013. ‘We are a relatively small licensee. If there happen to be more PhD projects in a particular year, the total immediately goes up.’

Steenmans also points out that the total doesn’t tell you anything about the discomfort caused to the animals. As an example, the number of cows used doubled in 2014 to 1106. Steenmans: ‘But this was a case of taking a single blood sample for a genetics study.’

Wageningen University is somewhere around the average when it comes to animal testing. The Radboud University in Nijmegen makes much more use of animals, at almost 50,000. However, the picture changes if animal experiments by DLO institutes are included in the statistics. DLO does not have the latest figures to hand yet, but in 2013 it used twice as many animals as the university. And that immediately makes Wageningen UR the biggest user of animals in research in the Dutch academic world. The use of animals has been going down in DLO too, though.