Irish colleges have spent over €3m buying live animals for experimentation since 2005.
The number of animals used in tests in laboratories has rocketed 800% in this period, with welfare groups expressing concerns that Ireland is becoming a hub for animal experimentation.
Figures released to the Irish Examiner under freedom of information inquiries show Trinity College Dublin has spent over €1.7m since 2005 buying animals for experimentation and research purposes.
The university bought 25,598 rats, 66,297 mice, six rabbits, 107 pigs, and 41 dogs. In 2007/2008, it spent in excess of €618,000 on animals, up from €183,000 the previous year. As with the majority of the institutions, it refused to outline what research the animals were used for or where they were sourced.
Between 2009 and 2011, University College Cork spent €661,627 on live animals, but was unable to provide any costs from 2005 to 2008.
Since 2005, it has acquired more than 65,000 animals, but declined to say where the animals were acquired, other than from "commercial suppliers in the UK and USA".
There also seem to be discrepancies in the number of animals reported by universities and colleges and those contained in official Department of Health statistics.
For example, in 2010, UCC reported using 113 pigs for research purposes, while TCD bought 36 pigs in the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 academic years.
However, the department figures for 2010 state that just 61 pigs were used across all universities and colleges.
Similar discrepancies occur in the 2008 figures.
NUI Galway was one of the few institutions to reveal the source of the animals it purchased for research. It has spent €273,110 since 2005 on procuring a total of almost 13,000 animals for experimentation and research purposes. These were sourced from Charles River and Harlan.
Charles River Laboratories is one of the biggest animal-testing companies in the world and has two research facilities in Ireland, at Ballina and Glenamoy in Mayo. It breeds animals on site that are either used for research on site or else sold to universities and other commercial establishments.
Despite the explosion in the numbers of live animals used for research, only 66 inspections of the organisations involved in such research have been carried out between 2005 and 2010 — an average inspection rate for each institution of once every four years.
Chairwoman of the Irish Anti-Vivisection Society, Yvonne Smalley, expressed her concern that large amounts of taxpayers’ money was used to buy animals for the purposes of laboratory experiments.
"Increasing links between universities and commercial companies mean that animals are being subjected to pain and death in a bid for patents and profit.
"In our view, universities and colleges have an obligation to the public to explain what all these animals are being used for.
"They should also give details of how they intend to reduce animal use, which is a requirement in directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes."
- Conall Ó Fátharta