Annual statistics for regulated scientific procedures performed on protected animals 2020

In the UK research 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 suffering, and report the numbers of individuals used and the severity of the harm they experienced to the Home Office. As a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, Cefas is publishing its statistics on experimental use of animals in 2020 (Table 1), with additional tabulations to enable comparison to our previous statistics (Tables 2 and 3).

trout swimming

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 2020 Cefas used 2,404 individuals across ten species in scientific procedures that had the potential to cause suffering to the fish (Table 1). The species used reflect their importance to aquaculture, fisheries, environmental quality, and recreational fishing.

The total number of animals we used in 2020 increased by 52% from the five-year low in 2019 (Table 3), and the pattern of harm changed with the majority judged to have experienced moderate (rather than mild) suffering (Table 2). These changes largely reflect pathogen challenge experiments conducted with rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon and lumpfish aiming to understand and reduce disease, a major welfare concern for farmed fish.

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 2020 has decreased markedly since 2016 (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.

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. In 2020, 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. Cefas researchers are active in the implementation and promotion of the 3Rs (Replacement, Refinement & Reduction) of animal use in research. For example, we have recently refined techniques used to attach tags to European bass and spurdog and published papers on:

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 2020 (*actual severity level)

Common name

Scientific name

*Sub-threshold

*Non-recovery

*Mild

*Moderate

*Severe

Total (%)

Rainbow trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss

150

-

 

223

 

909

 

11

 

1,293

(54%)

Atlantic salmon

Salmo salar

50

-

94

308

5

457

(19%)

Lumpfish

 

Cyclopterus lumpus

37

-

329

42

-

408

(17%)

Common carp

Cyprinus carpio

12

-

60

12

-

84

(3%)

Blonde ray

 

Raja brachyura

-

-

61

-

-

61

(3%)

European bass

Dicentrarchus labrax

-

-

51

-

-

51

(2%)

Atlantic bluefin tuna

Thunnus thynnus

-

-

18

-

-

18

(1%)

Spotted ray

Raja montagui

-

-

17

-

-

17

(1%)

European smelt

Osmerus eperlanus

-

-

12

-

-

12

(<1%)

Small-eyed ray

Raja microocellata

-

-

3

-

-

3

(<1%)

All

(%)

 

249

(10%)

 

-

(0%)

868

(36%)

1,271

(53%)

16 (1%)

2,404

(100%)

Table 2: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures 2016-2020 by severity

Year

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%

2020

10%

0%

36%

53%

1%

100%

Table 3: Cefas use of protected animals within regulated scientific procedures 2016-2020 by species.

Common name

Scientific name

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Annual average

Sea/ Brown trout

Salmo trutta

4,549

3,756

554

   

1,772

Atlantic salmon

Salmo salar

4,568

707

983

 

457

1,343

Ballan wrasse

Labrus bergylta

 

1,041

2,338

   

676

Rainbow trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss

36

882

 

47

1,293

452

European eel

Anguilla anguilla

1,297

204

68

   

314

European bass

Dicentrarchus labrax

309

573

68

476

51

295

Common carp

Cyprinus carpio

590

160

120

316

84

254

Minnow

Phoxinus phoxinus

   

1,006

   

201

Bullhead

Cottus gobio

   

802

   

160

Lumpfish

Cyclopterus lumpus

     

239

408

129

3-spined stickleback

Gasterosteus aculeatus

   

142

285

 

85

Chub

Squalius cephalus

 

160

2

   

32

Barbel

Barbus barbus

 

160

     

32

European smelt

Osmerus eperlanus

50

   

79

12

28

Turbot

Scophthalmus maximus

 

84

56

   

28

Starry smooth hound

Mustelus asterias

 

14

99

12

 

25

Goldfish

Carassius auratus

   

120

   

24

Thornback Ray

Raja clavata

 

51

 

51

 

20

Undulate ray

Raja undulata

   

65

5

 

14

Grayling

Thymallus thymallus

34

21

15

   

14

Small-eyed ray

Raja microocellata

     

65

3

14

Blonde ray

Raja brachyura

     

1

61

12

Stone loach

Barbatula barbatula

   

39

   

8

Roach

Rutilus rutilus

 

3

26

   

6

Sea lamprey

Petromyzon marinus

 

28

     

6

Atlantic bluefin tuna

Thunnus thynnus

     

3

18

4

Brook lamprey

Lampetra planeri

   

18

   

4

Spotted ray

Raja montagui

       

17

3

Perch

Perca fluviatilis

   

8

   

2

Pike

Esox lucius

 

3

3

   

1

Spurdog

Squalus acanthias

     

1

 

0

Gudgeon

Gobio gobio

   

1

   

0

Total number of individual fish used

11,433

7,847

6,533

1,580

2,404

 

Number of species used

8

16

21

13

10