There is now a very real hope that thousands of animals in Ireland will be spared from painful laboratory testing thanks to new funding from the Government for alternative scientific research.
A new fund dedicated to researching alternatives to animal testing has been secured thanks to years of lobbying from the Irish Anti-Vivisection Society (IAVS) and is the final outcome of a meeting last year with between the Society and Science Foundation Ireland's Director General Professor Mark Ferguson. The SFI has agreed that the funding will be spent specifically on researching replacement methods other than testing and painful experimentation on animals.
Almost 300,000 animals were used in Ireland last year to test the safety, quality, and potency of medicines.
A report from the Health Products Regulatory Authority, formerly the Irish Medicines Board, reveals that 277,559 animals were used in procedures for the first time.
There were 279,379 occasions where animals were used in procedures, with 205,751 used to test the safety, quality, and potency of medicines. The majority of the tests (94% or 193,197) were to examine the harmful effects of substances.
Animals are used all the time for research in Ireland but scientists are split about whether or not to talk openly about it.
Figures released by the Department of Health show 232,285 animals were used for experimentation in 2012 — a fall of 32,679 compared with 2011.
However, the figure is still substantially higher than previous years. Just 38,000 were used in live experiments in 2005, rising to 64,378 in 2007.
A Government pledge to check that cosmetics being sold in Ireland comply with an international animal testing ban has been welcomed by animal rights groups.
Over the past four years, EU laws to ban animal-tested cosmetics have gradually been phased in. Information about any animal testing must be included in a compulsory “product information file” (PIF), which is not publicly accessible.
Animal rights campaigners have expressed fury that the Government has ignored calls for a ban on the killing of newborn animals by “concussion or blow to the head”.
Such a method might be used as a way of stopping an experiment in order to comply with a pain threshold. It may also be used if a researcher deems normal euthanasia methods such as injection might interfere with test results.
LIVE animals are increasingly being experimented on by Irish scientists, despite controversy over the practice.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show researchers in Trinity College spent more than €368,000 on live animals in only 12 months to use in tests aimed at treating disease in humans.
The figure is more than double what was spent the previous year.
Animal welfare groups have hit out at Government plans to implement a loophole clause allowing Ireland to carry out experiments that inflict severe pain on animals in spite of an EU directive.
The issue involves Ireland’s transposition of an EU directive aimed at reducing animal pain and suffering and promoting non-animal research methods.
The directive will be transposed into Irish law this month and will become operational from Jan 1.
New regulations governing animal experimentation are due before the Dáil.
The regulations relate to a complex new EU directive allowing countries wide discretion in enforcement. Although these will be the most significant reforms since 1876, the Irish Anti-Vivisection Society is concerned that these historic regulations have not been subject to adequate consultation and might not be debated before being enshrined in law.
A new method of testing Botox has been licensed here but the controversial animal poison test it will replace may not be phased out.
This is despite EU regulations which say an experiment shall not be performed on animals if a non-animal alternative “is reasonably and practically available”.
Pharmaceutical and medical device giant Allergan has been licensed by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) for its new non-animal cellbased method for the testing of Botox. The test will replace the standard animal based LD50 method of test- ing botulinum neurotoxins.
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.
Just 66 inspections were carried out at organisations who conducted experiments on 818,000 animals over a six-year period.
Given that 40 companies and institutions registered for animal experimentation between 2005 and 2010, the figures mean on average, each premises was inspected just once every four years.
Even accounting for the fact that 42 out of the 66 inspections in this period were carried out in 2009 and 2010, this still equates to an inspection rate for each institution of just once every two years.
THE number of animals used for experimentation in Irish laboratories has rocketed 800% in five years, raising serious concerns among welfare groups.
Figures from the Department of Health show 280,000 animals were used in live experiments in 2010, up from just 38,000 in 2005. More than 80% of the animals were used for experiments conducted by "commercial establishments". The remainder were spread across universities and colleges, hospitals, agriculture and veterinary institutes, fish farms and fisheries research institutes.
Concerns have been expressed that Ireland is becoming an international centre for animal testing. Latest government figures reveal that the total number of animals used in experiments almost doubled to over 112,800 last year. The unpublished Department of Health figures show there were increases in the number of dogs, rabbits, pigs, and fish used in experiments during 2008. The number of cattle used in experiments almost doubled to 4,019, while the number of mice used almost tripled to 71,224 when compared to the previous year.
Trinity College Dublin has spent over €600,000 in the past three years procuring 41 live beagle dogs, 69 pigs and over 16,000 mice for medical or scientific research, a Sunday Tribune investigation has established.
According to figures obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, Trinity also bought more than 2,300 rats – and four rabbits – in that time.
It is understood that most of the research funding comes from the government's multimillion-euro Science Foundation Ireland initiative.