More fish used for medical experiments, other animals still 'sacrificed'

This increase reflects efforts to develop new methods and technologies, while meticulously applying the principles of research on animals that are accepted worldwide and in Israel.

May 7, 2018 17:31
2 minute read.
Laboratory equipment

Laboratory equipment. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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Of the more than 1.2 million animals that were “sacrificed” for Israeli medical experiments in 2017, 99.3% were fish and other cold-blooded creatures, along with mice, rats and poultry. This was reported in the latest report on medical experimentation in the lab issued by the Health Ministry and the Council for Animal Experimentation, which is annually required by law.

Fish and other cold-blooded animals are increasingly serving as lab animals, totaling 71.7%, followed by 25.7% mice and rats and 2% birds, mostly chickens, according to the report. The number of fish increased fivefold from 180,000 in 2016 to 887,000 in the following year.

Fewer than 1% (0.66%) of the creatures experimented on were higher and other animals.

Due to the growth in use of fish, there was a significant increase in the overall use of animals. This increase reflects efforts to develop new methods and technologies, while meticulously applying the principles of research on animals that are accepted worldwide and in Israel. The main principle is that the “lowest animal on the developmental scale” possible should be used for research.

The number of monkeys used last year was 35 compared to 46 in 2016. But the number of rabbits was 1,183 in 2017 compared to only 748 in 2016. One dog and 18 horses were used for experiments last year. Other animals on which experiments were carried out included gerbils, foxes, parrots, pigeons, frogs, snakes and salamanders.

In 2017, there were 3,184 active permits for scientists to carry out animal research, with 43.6% of the studies being used to promote health, promote medicine and prevent suffering; 46.7% for the advancement of scientific research; 8.3% for testing or manufacturing of materials or objects; and 1.4% for education and teaching.

The procedures were classified according to a scale of five levels determined by the council, which takes into account the potential suffering of the animals.

According to this scale, 8% of the studies were at the lowest level, 19% at the second level, 29% at the third level, 31% at the fourth level and 13% at the highest level. The severity level assesses the animal’s pain potential and not the degree of its expression, the ministry said.

During 2017, the permit committees issued 1,986 new permits for conducting animal studies. Approximately one-third of the applications were approved during the first round of hearings in the committees, and most of the requests were approved after two to six rounds of hearings after the researchers made required changes.

Eight percent of the research requests were rejected and/or the discussion was not completed. Before any permit is granted, requests are carefully examined and efforts are made to confirm the minimum number of animals that will provide a scientifically valid result for the research.

The council continues its rehabilitation efforts, especially of large animals (monkeys, carnivores, farm animals and wild animals).

“The rehabilitation rate of animals in Israel is high by any measure, and Israel has been leading in their rehabilitation compared with the data published worldwide,” the ministry said.

In 2013, the ministry established a fund that awards research grants for the development of methods other than animal experimentation that won’t harm the results and validity of the studies. Twelve alternative projects have been funded so far.

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