CEFAS PUBLISHES STATISTICS ON EXPERIMENTAL USE OF ANIMALS
Cefas publishes statistics on experimental use of animals. In the UK research with protected (sentient) animals which has the potential to cause suffering is regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (Amended Regulations 2012), usually referred to as ASPA. This regulation requires researchers to minimise animal use and suffering, and report the numbers of individuals used and the severity of the harm they experienced to the Home Office. As a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, Cefas is publishing its statistics on experimental use of animals in 2020 (Table 1), with additional tabulations to enable comparison to previous statistics (Tables 2 and 3).
Cefas conducts applied research using fish which aims to: protect wild populations, biodiversity and the environment; and reduce disease and improve welfare in cultured stocks. In support of these aims, in 2020 Cefas used 2,404 individuals across ten species in scientific procedures that had the potential to cause suffering to the fish (Table 1). The species used reflect their importance to aquaculture, fisheries, environmental quality, and recreational fishing.
The total number of animals we used in 2020 increased by 52% from the five-year low in 2019 (Table 3), and the pattern of harm changed with the majority judged to have experienced moderate (rather than mild) suffering (Table 2). These changes largely reflect pathogen challenge experiments conducted with rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon and lumpfish aiming to understand and reduce disease, a major welfare concern for farmed fish.
There is considerable variation between years in the species and numbers of fish used at Cefas (Table 3). This reflects changes in the laboratory and field research projects undertaken. The number of fish Cefas used in 2020 has decreased markedly since 2016 (Table 3). This is primarily due to the completion of some long-term field-based research projects and the closure of the experimental aquarium facility at the Lowestoft site, with aspects of the aquarium work being transferred to the Weymouth Laboratory during 2019.
Cefas has a strong culture of care, supported by Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Bodies which ensure all animal use is justified. Researchers minimise numbers used via robust experimental designs, and minimise suffering by implementing humane end-points and frequent monitoring. In 2020, Cefas continued investigating the use of fish embryos as a replacement for later (sentient) developmental stages in studies on the effects of chemicals and pathogens. Cefas researchers are active in the implementation and promotion of the 3Rs (Replacement, Refinement & Reduction) of animal use in research. For example, we have recently refined techniques used to attach tags to European bass and spurdog and published papers on:
- Clarification of early end-points for refinement of animal experiments, with specific reference to fish
- Skin swabbing is a refined technique to collect DNA from model fish species
- In-tank underwater cameras can refine monitoring of laboratory fish
- Reducing repetition of regulatory vertebrate ecotoxicology studies
- Advanced statistical modelling to make efficient use of choice experiment data
Glossary (terms as defined in the Guidance on the Operation of ASPA):
Regulated procedure: “A procedure is regulated if it is carried out on a protected animal for a scientific or educational purpose and may cause that animal a level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or higher than, that caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice.”
Sub-threshold: “below the level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to that caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice”.
Non-recovery: “Procedures which are performed entirely under general anaesthesia from which the animal shall not recover consciousness”.
Mild: “Procedures on animals as a result of which the animals are likely to experience short-term mild pain, suffering or distress, as well as procedures with no significant impairment of the well-being or general condition of the animals”.
Moderate: “Procedures on animals as a result of which the animals are likely to experience short-term moderate pain, suffering or distress, or long-lasting mild pain, suffering or distress as well as procedures that are likely to cause moderate impairment of the well-being or general condition of the animals”.
Severe: “Procedures on animals as a result of which the animals are likely to experience severe pain, suffering or distress, or long-lasting moderate pain, suffering or distress, as well as procedures that are likely to cause severe impairment of the well-being or general condition of the animals”.
Table 1: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures in 2020 (*actual severity level)
|Common name||Scientific name||*Sub-threshold||*Non-recovery||*Mild||*Moderate||*Severe||Total (%)|
|Rainbow trout||Oncorhynchus mykiss||150||–
|Atlantic salmon||Salmo salar||50||–||94||308||5||457
|Common carp||Cyprinus carpio||12||–||60||12||–||84
|European bass||Dicentrarchus labrax||–||–||51||–||–||51
|Atlantic bluefin tuna||Thunnus thynnus||–||–||18||–||–||18
|Spotted ray||Raja montagui||–||–||17||–||–||17
|European smelt||Osmerus eperlanus||–||–||12||–||–||12
|Small-eyed ray||Raja microocellata||–||–||3||–||–||3
Table 2: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures 2016-2020 by severity
Table 3: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures 2016-2020 by species.
|Common name||Scientific name||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020||Annual average|
|Sea/ Brown trout||Salmo trutta||4,549||3,756||554||1,772|
|Atlantic salmon||Salmo salar||4,568||707||983||457||1,343|
|Ballan wrasse||Labrus bergylta||1,041||2,338||676|
|Rainbow trout||Oncorhynchus mykiss||36||882||47||1,293||452|
|European eel||Anguilla anguilla||1,297||204||68||314|
|European bass||Dicentrarchus labrax||309||573||68||476||51||295|
|Common carp||Cyprinus carpio||590||160||120||316||84||254|
|3-spined stickleback||Gasterosteus aculeatus||142||285||85|
|European smelt||Osmerus eperlanus||50||79||12||28|
|Starry smooth hound||Mustelus asterias||14||99||12||25|
|Thornback Ray||Raja clavata||51||51||20|
|Undulate ray||Raja undulata||65||5||14|
|Small-eyed ray||Raja microocellata||65||3||14|
|Blonde ray||Raja brachyura||1||61||12|
|Stone loach||Barbatula barbatula||39||8|
|Sea lamprey||Petromyzon marinus||28||6|
|Atlantic bluefin tuna||Thunnus thynnus||3||18||4|
|Brook lamprey||Lampetra planeri||18||4|
|Spotted ray||Raja montagui||17||3|
|Total number of individual fish used||11,433||7,847||6,533||1,580||2,404|
|Number of species used||8||16||21||13||10|