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.
More than 90% of the animals were used for experiments conducted in “commercial establishments”, with the remainder used for research in universities and colleges, hospitals, agriculture and veterinary institutes, fish farms and fisheries research institutes.
The type of animals experimented on included horses, dogs, cats, mice, rats, cattle, goats, fish, birds, sheep, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs.
The Irish Anti-Vivisection Society (IAVS) welcomed the drop in numbers, but said “it is a major concern that the bulk of these animals are being tested on in commercial establishments, indicating that financial considerations are overriding animal protection. For instance, the steep increases in recent years have been almost entirely down to very severe toxicity tests called Lethal Dose 50% (LD5O) for the sake of Botox and similar cosmetics products,” said a statement.
The contentious LD50 test aims to determine the lethal dose of a toxin that kills exactly half of the animals used in an experiment.
More than 93% of the 170,058 animals used in “toxicological and other safety evaluations” here in 2012 were subjected to the LD50 test.
The figures also show an increase in the number of rats (+2,136 to 12,612), guinea pigs (+938 to 1,483), rabbits (+383 to 1,098), cats (+65 to 185), dogs (+224 to 697) and ‘other mammals’ (+275 to 755) who were subjected to experiments without any anaesthesia. The number of animals experimented on under full anaesthesia also dropped from 25,698 to 9,846.
The IAVS hit out in the delay in publishing the statistics which it said were not fit for purpose as they did not fully inform people of the types of experiments that were being carried out on animals.