Annual statistics for regulated scientific procedures performed on protected animals 2019

In the UK all experimental work with protected (sentient) animals which has the potential to cause suffering is regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (Amended Regulations 2012), usually referred to as ASPA. This regulation requires researchers to minimise animal use and harm, and report the numbers of individuals used and the severity of the harm they experienced to the Home Office.

Carp swimming

As a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research Cefas is publishing its statistics on experimental use of animals in 2019 (Table 1), with additional tabulations to enable comparison to our previous statistics (Tables 2 and 3).

Cefas conducts applied research using fish which aims to: protect wild populations, biodiversity and the environment; and reduce disease and improve welfare in cultured stocks. In support of these aims, in 2019 Cefas used 1,580 fish across thirteen species in scientific procedures that had the potential to cause suffering to the fish (Table 1). The species used reflect their importance to fisheries, environmental quality, aquaculture and recreational fishing.

Cefas has a strong culture of care, supported by animal welfare and ethical review bodies which ensure all animal use is justified. Researchers minimise numbers used via robust experimental designs and minimise suffering by implementing humane end-points and frequent monitoring. This is reflected in the actual severity levels which fish experience – the vast majority of fish used in 2019 (76%) were categorised as a mild severity level; a further 16% were classified as sub-threshold (see Glossary, below). This maintains the pattern of previous years (Table 2), where a minority of individual fish (≤14%) have been subjected to moderate or severe levels of suffering, after applying all appropriate refinement techniques.

In 2019, European bass was the most used species (Table 1) which reflects their significance to aquaculture, and the importance of understanding wild fish movements and behaviour, and survival when discarded from commercial fishing operations, to stock management and conservation.

The other main species (common carp, three-spined stickleback, lumpfish) used in 2019 were within pathogen studies aimed at protecting the health of fish in the wild and within aquaculture.

There is considerable variation between years in the species and numbers of fish used at Cefas (Table 3). This reflects changes in the laboratory and field research projects undertaken. The number of fish Cefas used in 2019 decreased markedly from previous years (Table 3). This is primarily due to the completion of some long-term field-based research projects and the closure of the experimental aquarium facility at the Lowestoft site, with aspects of the aquarium work being transferred to the Weymouth Laboratory during 2019. Use of fish in 2020 is expected to be reduced by the COVID-19 situation which has restricted research in the both the laboratory and field.

In 2019, Cefas continued investigating the use of fish embryos as a replacement for later (sentient) developmental stages in studies on the effects of chemicals and pathogens. Such replacement is a long-term goal and has not yet affected our animal use.

Glossary (terms as defined in the Guidance on the Operation of ASPA):

Regulated procedure: “A procedure is regulated if it is carried out on a protected animal for a scientific or educational purpose and may cause that animal a level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or higher than, that caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice.”

Sub-threshold: “below the level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to that caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice”.

Non-recovery: “Procedures which are performed entirely under general anaesthesia from which the animal shall not recover consciousness”.

Mild: “Procedures on animals as a result of which the animals are likely to experience short-term mild pain, suffering or distress, as well as procedures with no significant impairment of the well-being or general condition of the animals”.

Moderate: “Procedures on animals as a result of which the animals are likely to experience short-term moderate pain, suffering or distress, or long-lasting mild pain, suffering or distress as well as procedures that are likely to cause moderate impairment of the well-being or general condition of the animals”.

Severe: “Procedures on animals as a result of which the animals are likely to experience severe pain, suffering or distress, or long-lasting moderate pain, suffering or distress, as well as procedures that are likely to cause severe impairment of the well-being or general condition of the animals”.

 

Table 1: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures in 2019 (*actual severity level)

Common name

Scientific name

*Sub-threshold

*Non-recovery

*Mild

*Moderate

*Severe

Total (%)

European bass

Dicentrarchus labrax

120

 

-

 

276

 

80

 

-

 

476

(30%)

Common carp

Cyprinus carpio

30

 

-

 

268

 

16

 

2

 

316

(20%)

Three-spined stickleback

Gasterosteus aculeatus

-

 

-

 

265

 

6

 

14

 

285

(18%)

Lumpfish

 

Cyclopterus lumpus

52

 

-

 

170

 

17

 

-

 

239

(15%)

European smelt

Osmerus eperlanus

-

 

-

 

79

 

-

 

-

 

79

(5%)

Small-eyed ray

Raja microocellata

-

 

-

 

65

 

-

 

-

 

65

(4%)

Thornback Ray

Raja clavata

 

-

 

-

 

51

 

-

 

-

 

51

(3%)

Rainbow trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss

47

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

47

(3%)

Starry smooth hound

Mustelus asterias

-

 

-

 

12

 

-

 

-

 

12

(<1%)

Undulate ray

 

Raja undulata

 

-

 

-

 

5

 

-

 

-

 

5

(<1%)

Atlantic bluefin tuna

Thunnus thynnus

-

 

-

 

3

 

-

 

-

 

3

(<1%)

Spurdog

 

Squalus acanthias

-

 

-

 

1

 

-

 

-

 

1

(<1%)

Blonde ray

 

Raja brachyura

-

 

-

 

1

 

-

 

-

 

1 (<1%)

All

(%)

 

 

249

(16%)

-

(0%)

1196

(76%)

119

(8%)

16

(1%)

1580

(100%)

 

Table 2: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures 2016-2019 by severity

 

Sub-threshold

Non-recovery

Mild

Moderate

Severe

Total

2016

1%

0%

93%

6%

0%

100%

2017

3%

0%

84%

11%

2%

100%

2018

4%

0%

83%

14%

0%

100%

2019

16%

0%

76%

8%

1%

100%

 

Table 3: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures 2016-2019 by species

   

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total 2016-19

Sea/ Brown trout

Salmo trutta

4,549

3,756

554

 

8,859

Atlantic salmon

Salmo salar

4,568

707

983

 

6,258

Ballan wrasse

Labrus bergylta

 

1,041

2,338

 

3,379

European eel

Anguilla anguilla

1,297

204

68

 

1,569

European bass

Dicentrarchus labrax

309

573

68

476

1,426

Common carp

Cyprinus carpio

590

160

120

316

1,186

Minnow

Phoxinus phoxinus

   

1,006

 

1,006

Rainbow trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss

36

882

 

47

965

Bullhead

Cottus gobio

   

802

 

802

Three-spined stickleback

Gasterosteus aculeatus

   

142

285

427

Lumpfish

Cyclopterus lumpus

     

239

239

Chub

Squalius cephalus

 

160

2

 

162

Barbel

Barbus barbus

 

160

   

160

Turbot

Scophthalmus maximus

 

84

56

 

140

European smelt

Osmerus eperlanus

50

   

79

129

Starry smooth hound

Mustelus asterias

 

14

99

12

125

Goldfish

Carassius auratus

   

120

 

120

Thornback Ray

Raja clavata

 

51

 

51

102

Undulate ray

Raja undulata

   

65

5

70

Grayling

Thymallus thymallus

34

21

15

 

70

Small-eyed ray

Raja microocellata

     

65

65

Stone loach

Barbatula barbatula

   

39

 

39

Roach

Rutilus rutilus

 

3

26

 

29

Sea lamprey

Petromyzon marinus

 

28

   

28

Brook lamprey

Lampetra planeri

   

18

 

18

Perch

Perca fluviatilis

   

8

 

8

Pike

Esox lucius

 

3

3

 

6

Atlantic bluefin tuna

Thunnus thynnus

     

3

3

Spurdog

Squalus acanthias

     

1

1

Blonde ray

Raja brachyura

     

1

1

Gudgeon

Gobio

   

1

 

1

Total number of individual fish used

 

11,433

7,847

6,533

1,580

 

Number of species used

 

8

16

21

13