A report by the Council on Animal Testing revealed Tuesday that more than half the experiments in Israel in 2014 were conducted at the highest level of pain for the animal, and more than 99 percent of the animals were put to death when experiments were finished.
There were 340,000 experiments conducted on animals last year, the report found, 12.1 percent more than the previous year. This data does not include tests conducted by the defense establishment, where tens of thousands of animals are used in tests which are not independently monitored.
The council found that there was a rise in the use of mammals, especially monkeys and mice (108 in 2013 compared with 724 in 2014). Mice were used in 83.9 percent of the experiments, while chickens and other birds were used in 7.4 percent, fish in 7 percent, and 1.3 percent in large mammals. The rise in the number of experiments, according to the report, comes to a large extent from the wider use of mice and fish, both used in experiments in much larger quantities in 2014 than in 2013.
Among the large mammals were 161 sheep, 48 goats, nine horses, nine donkeys, eight hedgehogs, two foxes and one camel.
The rise in the use of animals, noted the council, “reflects efforts to develop new methods and technologies, enabling the use of animals for tests while implementing stringent work principles, according to which the animals used should be on the lowest rung of the developmental ladder while still answering the needs of the research at hand.”
Adi Winter, spokeswoman of the Israeli Association Against Animal Testing, said the rise in experiments “is a very worrying trend. These creatures have a right to live their lives without their flesh being cut for the sake of science. The time has come for animal testing to pass from the world, the time has come for a world that respects all animals sharing the Earth with us.” Animals are not “test tubes with tails,” she said.
Winter noted that for medicine and cosmetics there are “many alternatives today. There are cultures of tissue and there is a chip simulating organs or even a whole human body.” The Council on Animal Testing, operating under the authority of the Health Ministry is also in charge for promoting and developing substitutes for experimentation on animals “but until now has not offered even one alternative in all the years it exists,” she told Haaretz.
Prof. Alex Tzafriri, from the Department of Biological Monitoring at the Weizmann Institute of Science, rejected the claims of Winter and other animal rights activists.
“If you hear from people who oppose animal testing that the experiments are not needed then they are simply lying,” Tzafriri told Haaretz. “Have you heard of SARS? Have you heard of Ebola? How were these diseases defeated? Only by testing vaccines on animals. There is no substitute to animal testing. We will never undertake any action on a human without proving first that this action will benefit them or at the very least not harm them. We will never take a sick person and try on them something we have not proven to be effective and safe,” he said.
Tzafriri added that only a third of all medical publications are based on animal testing and that an overwhelming amount of tests is conducted on very primitive life forms.