Statistics on animal research conducted in Canada in 2020 have been released by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). These numbers reflect research conducted by CCAC-certified institutions and by individuals working in CCAC-certified institutions, even if the research involves animals located outside of Canada. CCAC certification criteria can be found here. This also means that not all animals used for research in Canada are included in these reports. The CCAC reports that in 2020, 5,067,778 animals were used for research, teaching and testing in Canada. This is an 11% increase from the 4,562,522 animals used in 2019.
Collecting statistical data on animal use is undoubtedly useful for some purposes, but it also has major limitations in terms of meaningfully and seriously considering the ethical use of animals in research. Canada’s statistics for 2020 are a good example. Why did the number of birds used in Canada increase by 112% over the previous year? No explanation is provided in the CCAC report.
85.7% of animals used in research and testing were conducted on mice, rats, fish and birds, which was slightly lower than other countries. However, with the inclusion of cattle, this percentage increases to 97%. As in other countries, primates, cats and dogs made up a small proportion of animals used in research, together accounting for 0.4% of all research animals, with an overall decrease of 4,886 animals from 2019 for these species.
Pain, suffering and damage were also measured and categorized into five invasiveness categories: A: experiments on most invertebrates or live isolates, B: experiences that cause little or no discomfort or stress; VS : experiences that cause minor stress or short-lived pain; D: experiences that cause moderate to severe distress or discomfort and E : Procedures that cause severe pain close to, equal to, or greater than the pain tolerance threshold of conscious, unanesthetized animals. For more details on what these categories mean, please click here. In 2020, there were no experiments on most invertebrates. 65.9% of experiences caused little or no stress/distress, 16.3% caused minor stress/distress, 17.8% caused moderate distress, and 1.8% caused severe pain.
Overall, there appears to be an upward trend in the number of animals used in research in Canada over the past 20 years, although this trend is not particularly clear due to annual fluctuations. These fluctuations may be a consequence of the accounting procedures used and may only reflect animals used in CCAC-certified facilities.