WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper calling for a regular public disclosure of the number of animals the Defense Department uses in its research. Presently, the American public does not have a full accounting of all species used in animal research at the DoD. An annual disclosure by the department would ensure the DoD continues its efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of animals in testing and research.
Dear Secretary Esper,
Thank you for the efforts being made to reduce the number of animals in experiments funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD Instruction issued in March 2019 outlining efforts underway to “Ensure the DoD has a continued focus on refining, reducing, and replacing animal use in RDT&E and training” is an important milestone in reducing DoD’s animal numbers. It also helps ensure that DoD is following the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which Congress amended in 1985 to emphasize the importance of working to reduce the number of animals used in experiments.
As you may know, the AWA excludes certain species from the definition of “animal,” such as mice and rats, fish, and reptiles, which makes tracking animal use in research difficult. To ensure the aims of the March 2019 DoD Instruction are achieved, I am writing to request that the DoD begin annually disclosing to the general public a list of total number of all animals that the DoD uses in intramural and/or extramural research. The list I am describing should include all animals—including those species of animals that are not protected by the AWA—that are used or held captive in relation to any DoD-funded experiments, both intramural and extramural.
Given the importance of this issue to my constituents, I would request this information be made available online annually in a press release posted on the Department of Defense’s Newsroom website. This will enable Congress, media, and other key stakeholders to determine whether an overall reduction of animal usage is, in fact, being achieved by the DoD.
According to USDA data from 2018, the DoD reported using over 13,000 animals in medical experiments. This number included nonhuman primates, dogs, cats, dolphins, and pigs, among others, but excludes an unknown number of animals that are not defined as animals under the AWA. I am pleased that the DoD has reported a 19% reduction in the number of AWA-protected animals used by the DoD since 2016, but for reasons described above we do not know if this reduction is true for all species of animals being used in research at the DoD.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, and for the efforts being made to reduce the unnecessary use and suffering of animals in DoD-funded research and testing. I look forward to your response.
Ted W. Lieu
Member of Congress
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