New Animal Experiment Trends You Need to See

Mike Ryan & Casey Webster, June 4, 2020

Cruel primate tests spiking;
Rabbits, cats, and dogs numbers falling, if unevenly

Every year, labs and other institutions that perform experiments on animals protected by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) must report the number of animals they use to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

While self-reported, these figures are the best information we have. Our investigative team examined the last four years of these reports—including the 2019 reports just released in this spring of 2020—to uncover the following trends.

More Animals Suffering in Labs in 2019 than 2018


Overall, the number of AWA-protected animals used by experimenters or held for medical or scientific experiments at U.S. facilities rose from 1,152,960 in 2018 to 1,204,803 in 2019, a 4.5% increase. While that is discouraging, it’s worth noting that the 2019 figure is a 6.7% reduction from 2016, when the total was 1,285,651.

The Good


  • From 2018 to 2019, the number of cats used in any kind of experiment in the U.S. fell from 16,734 in 2018 to 15,575 in 2019, a 16% reduction.

  • Over that same time period, the number of cats used in experiments that were likely to cause pain (Columns D or E in USDA terms) fell from 5,919 cats to 5,179 cats, a 12.5% reduction.



  • The number of dogs held in research facilities is falling faster than it is for cats, pigs, primates, and rabbits.

  • The number of dogs used in experiments that caused them unrelieved pain fell 48% from 2016 to 2019—from 702 to 361 dogs.

  • The number of dogs used in experiments that cause pain (relieved or not) has fallen every year since 2016.



  • The number of pigs forced to endure painful tests without pain relief is down 32% from 2016 to 2019.



  • The number of primates used in experiments that caused pain fell 10% from 2018 to 2019. This number is down 15% since 2016.



  • The number of rabbits forced to endure painful experiments without pain relief fell 25% from 2018 to 2019.

  • Researchers continue to experiment on significantly more rabbits than cats and dogs (2x more rabbits than dogs and cats combined). However, the number of rabbits is falling—across every pain category of research.

  • Rabbits are the only species among those listed here showing an across-the-board reduction in all categories.

The Bad



  • We’re pleased to see the number of cats subjected to “painful” experiments falling 12%, from 5,919 to 5,179 cats—however, the number of cats suffering through experiments in which they’re denied pain relief from 2016-2019 grew 22%, from 23 to 28 cats.



  • 3,659 more pigs were used in experiments in 2019 than 2018—a 7% increase.



  • The number of primates used in or held for experiments in the U.S. rose to 108,042 in 2019—a 2% increase from 2018.

The Ugly


  • The number of primates used in dreaded “Column E” experiments (these experiments cause pain but no pain relief is given) spiked 53% from 2018 to 2019. (This 2019 total is slightly less than it was in 2016, which is the only silver lining.)



  • The number of dogs used in painful experiments without relief rose 10% from 2018 to 2019, representing 29 additional dogs suffering in this way.



  • The number of pigs suffering in pain in experiments is up 10% from 2018 to 2019. In fact, compared to other species mentioned in this blog post, pigs are faring worst in terms of a regular year-to-year increase in use.


Whatever we uncover, we share with you. To delve deeper into the latest data on animal experiment trends, check out this chart we’ve created for you.


Note: Because fish are not counted as “animals” under the AWA and would therefor be excluded from USDA totals, we omitted one entity’s report citing a fish quantity. Fish and the majority of mouse, rat, and bird species are the most commonly experimented upon animals, yet federal law excludes them from being counted in these exercises at all.