(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Rodents such as mice and rats constituted the vast majority – 84 percent – of laboratory animals that underwent supervised medical experimentation in 2014, according to the Health Ministry and the Council for Animal Experimentation, established in 1994 to oversee such work.
According to the just-released report, a total of 340,330 animals were used for medical and other studies last year, compared to an average of 309,015 in previous years. A total of 2,745 permits were granted to perform animal experimentation.
Cold-blooded fish constituted 7.4% of those animals experimented on.
Among higher animals were 23,379 chickens, 959 guinea pigs, 246 gerbils, 71 hamsters, 1,118 rabbits, 1,474 pigs, 161 sheep, 36 monkeys, 48 goats, one camel and two owls.
The council, headed by Prof. Hillel Bercouvier, said it sets its standards according to international principles calling for animals from the lowest possible level to be used for experimentation to benefit mankind.
The Health Ministry’s chief scientist, Prof. Avi Yisraeli, is not a member of the council, although he receives ongoing reports on its activities, as well as those of the labs.
Forty-six percent of the studies using animals in 2014 were aimed at the promotion of health, medicine and prevention of human suffering.
Other goals were to advance scientific knowledge (45%), test products, including cosmetics (8%), and assist in education and teaching (1%).
As to the extent of animal suffering on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), the report rated 9% of the experimentation at Level 1, 19% at Level 2, 28% at Level 3, 32% at Level 4, and 12% at Level 5.
Of the 36 monkeys used in 2014, 89% were “rehabilitated” after the experiments ended, rather than put down, making Israel one of the countries most likely to rehabilitate lab monkeys.
Animal experimentation in Israel is performed under strict veterinary supervision, and only if there is an important reason, the council said. If regulations are, experimentation can be halted immediately, with veterinarians able to make surprise lab visits at will.
The Health Ministry said that in 2013, it established a fund for grants to develop alternative ways of experimentation rather than using animals.