WASHINGTON (November 14, 2001) - A recent poll conducted by an independent polling firm for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) indicates that Americans strongly oppose animal research and testing when it involves significant pain and distress to animals.
The survey found that 75 percent of people disapprove, and most strongly disapprove, of experiments that subject animals to severe pain and distress. Sixty percent, or six out of every ten Americans, oppose experiments that cause even moderate pain and distress. Thirty-three percent, or one-third, of those surveyed oppose research and testing that involves little or no pain or distress to animals.
These results are in line with previous surveys that show a substantial decrease in public support for testing and research that causes animal suffering. A 1999 British survey found that public support for research on mice and monkeys declined as much as 35 percent when the animals were subjected to pain, illness, or surgery. Similarly, support for animal research among psychologists and psychology students in America declined by 43 to 50 percent when the animal research or testing involved pain and death.
"The general public and scientists alike are troubled by the fact that animals are suffering from pain, fear, and anxiety in the course of biomedical experimentation," says Martin Stephens, Ph.D., vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS. "This concern led to the passage of the Animal Welfare Act and its subsequent amendments, which mandates attention to reducing any likely pain and distress suffered by research animals. But much more can be done to improve the implementation and oversight of this law."
The HSUS has launched a "Pain & Distress Initiative" to press for more aggressive implementation of Animal Welfare Act requirements. The HSUS is pressing government officials, scientists, and laboratory animal caregivers to take more substantial action to eliminate all significant pain and suffering from the lives of the approximately twenty million animals used annually in research.
The Initiative has several goals, two of which concern the reporting of pain and distress by institutions. First, it seeks to improve the system by which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency responsible for monitoring compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, classifies animal pain and distress.
The current reporting system is completely inadequate. For example, it does not address the levels of pain and distress the animals actually experience, so we cannot focus on the most problematic research and testing.
Second, The HSUS wants the USDA and the research institutions to improve the accuracy of reporting laboratory animal pain and distress. An HSUS analysis of reports issued to the USDA by facilities conducting animal research found substantial evidence that institutions in the U.S. significantly under-report laboratory animal pain and distress. A few comparisons highlight this issue:
* For 1996-98, the top fifty U.S. non-profit research institutions (based on National Institutes of Health funding) reported that less than one percent of animals used in research were subjected to unalleviated pain and distress.
* These reports are at odds with publications produced by scientists from some of these institutions that describe procedures and conditions that almost certainly caused significant pain and distress.
* Recent U.S. statistics report that only about ten percent of research animals experience any pain and distress.
* In comparison, countries with more meaningful reporting requirements cite much higher percentages of animals experiencing substantial pain and distress in research: The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Canada report that approximately 30 percent to 45 percent of research animals experience significant pain and distress.
* These discrepancies appear to be due to failings in the U.S. reporting system, rather than to differences in the type of research or the extent of administration of drugs to relieve pain and distress.
"The first step in eradicating suffering from the lives of animals used in research is acknowledging that these animals are indeed suffering," stated Stephens. "Animal suffering is often considered to be an unfortunate byproduct of biomedical research. However, it is much more than that. Not only is much laboratory animal suffering unnecessary, it also interferes with the research itself and makes the results less meaningful. There are real, relatively simple, and immediate steps that can be taken to improve the quality of life for the suffering laboratory animals and also improve the quality of biomedical science. This is what both the public and the scientific community want."
For more information on animal research issues or the "Pain and Distress Initiative," call The HSUS at 202-452-1100 or visit the Web at www.hsus.org.
Contact: Howard White:(301) 258-3072 or Martin Stephens:(301) 258-3040