On March 11, 2017 CTV’s W5 aired “In the Name of Science” showing hidden camera footage taken inside a research facility in the Montreal area. Not often does the public see what the world of animal research looks like. The footage they saw shows dogs, pigs and monkeys in distress.
The use of animals in research, teaching and testing is both disturbing and complicated. Canadians care about the suffering of animals hidden away in research facilities, and want to take action to protect them.
There is no one simple way to address all the aspects of animals harmed in research.
Here we explain three areas of concern and how you can take action by reaching out to specific politicians on each issue. Animal Alliance is currently working to end the use of animals for cosmetic testing, pets used in research, and animals used by the Department of National Defence.
Bill S-214, the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, was a bill that would have ended animal testing for cosmetics in Canada, and would have banned the sale of cosmetics and ingredients that have been recently tested on animals in other jurisdictions is in process.
The Bill died when Parliament was dissolved ahead of the October 2019 federal General Election. The Liberal party included a commitment to end the practice during the 2021 election campaign.
No Pets in Research
Every year thousands of lost and abandoned dogs and cats are purchased by research facilities from municipal pounds and used for experimental purposes. They are subjected to a life of pain and suffering and eventually killed.
The Animals for Research Act in Ontario makes this practice the law in that province. Ontario is the only province where so-called “pound seizure” is mandated by law.
Military Trauma Training
The Department of National Defence’s reliance on outmoded animal-based training is needlessly endangering the men and women Canada puts in harm’s way. Ending the cruel and gratuitous use of animals at DND facilities can save lives, both animal and human.
The majority of NATO countries do not use animals for military trauma training, instead using more modern methods with better outcomes. Canada is one of the few countries that hasn’t replaced animal use for trauma training with high quality human-simulator alternatives.
We need to contact Canada’s Minister of National Defence to speak up for Canada’s soldiers, as well as for animals, by demanding that Canada join with other nations using more modern, effective methods.
Fast Facts about Animal Research in Canada:
- It is legal in Canada to use live animals to test cosmetics, household products, pesticides, drugs and other substances. It is legal to subject these animals to the most severe levels of pain, in some instances without pain relief.
- Species of animals used include fish, cats, dogs, birds, guinea pigs, mice, monkeys, sheep, cattle, beaver, hamsters, pigs, rabbits and rats.
- In one year, between 2008 and 2009 the number of animals used for experimentation in Canada jumped from 2,272,815 to 3,375,027, a staggering increase of 1,102,212. In 2020, the number reached 5,067,778. Just over half the animals used were birds.
- Eighteen percent, just over one million of the animals used in research in 2020, were subjected to Level D invasive experiments, described by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) as “experiments which cause moderate to severe distress or discomfort.”
- In the same year, 2%, over 100,000, were subjected to Level E invasive experiments, described as “procedures which cause severe pain near, at, or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized conscious animals.”
- Over 150,000 animals were used in “testing”, defined as “Studies for regulatory testing of products for the protection of humans, animals, or the environment.”
- Animals are used even when non-animal alternatives are available. Researchers are reluctant to try new methods and there is often no incentive to discontinue animal use. Funding bodies provide little or no incentive to seek alternative approaches to the current model of live animal experimentation.
Why Does This Still Happen?
The research community is very secretive. There is no legislative mechanism to find out what happens behind the closed doors of a private research lab. Labs that receive public funds must be “certified” by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). The CCAC describes itself as “the national peer-review organization responsible for setting, maintaining, and overseeing the implementation of high standards for animal ethics and care in science throughout Canada.” However, it is a voluntary body with no regulatory capacity.
Read our recently published Critical Review of the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
There is no public transparency or accountability of CCAC activities. Although the CCAC publishes aggregate numbers of research animals, very little additional information is available. Basic information – source of the animals, province where the experiments are conducted, number of animals used, acute verses chronic experiments – is not available.
Animal Alliance monitors the statistics published by the CCAC. Over the years, the publicly available data have become increasingly vague. For example, the number of animals used in each province used to be listed separately; now, these numbers are no longer disseminated to the public. There is no legislative mechanism to compel the CCAC to provide that information – the organization, funded by tax dollars, is not subject to Freedom of Information requests.
Private testing labs are not required to report animal use or be CCAC-certified unless they voluntarily agree.
Even when the CCAC can influence institutions to, for example, replace animal use with alternatives as per the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) programme, it fails to do so. Live terminal surgeries of beagles at the University of Guelph was allowed to continue even though alternatives were available and offered in the same program, until Animal Alliance intervened. Even then, the University made the decision to end the practice because of the efforts of Animal Alliance and its supporters, not because of the CCAC.