Animal research in Germany

Animal research in Germany

In previous years, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture recorded and evaluated the nationwide numbers of laboratory animals. In 2021, the responsible authorities reported the number of laboratory animals used in Germany to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) for the first time. According to the BfR, the number of animal experiments in 2020 was 1,850,443 animals. The new statistics include animals used in research procedures as well as for alternative methods, e.g. for obtaining cells for cell cultures. 58 percent of the animals were used in basic research. 19 per cent of the animals were used for legally required safety tests of chemicals or new drugs, for example against common diseases such as diabetes, cancer, dementia, cardiovascular diseases, infections and immune diseases.

The proportion of mice and rats accounts for about 78 percent for all animals used in research. 13 percent were fish, 4 percent were rabbits, and 0.08 percent primates. Across all species, the number of procedures with genetically modified animals accounts for 38 percent. 13 percent of all laboratory animals were used in translational or applied research directly related to disease.


Statistics at the Max Planck Institutes

In 2020, 319,535 laboratory animals were used at the Max Planck Institutes. Compared to 2019, the number of animals used in experiments has thus increased by 14 percent (2019: 275,887 experimental animals). The slight increase can be explained by the fact that two new research institutions of the Max Planck Society started animal experimental research in the last data collection period. Rodents (mice and rats) accounted for the largest share of this, at around 81 percent, followed by fish (18 percent). Other animal groups, such as birds (1 percent), were used as experimental animals at the Max Planck Institutes to a much lesser extent.

The Max Planck Society uses significantly more fish in its research activities than the federal average, thus meeting a provision of the German Animal Welfare Act according to which the lowest possible vertebrate species should be deployed if it will suffice for the research purpose. The high proportion of fish is also explained by their importance in basic research. The zebra fish, in particular, is an extremely important model organism in molecular and developmental biology and in neuroscience.

In 2020, no experiments on non-human primates requiring approval have been performed at Max Planck Institutes. 

Severity of procedures

In 2020, the majority of procedures carried out were categorized as being mild (66 percent); the proportion of moderate procedures was 13 percent. Only 0.4 percent of procedures were categorized as being severe. The proportion of procedures carried out under general anaesthesia, from which the animals did not recover, and from animals used for organ and tissue removal after killing was 37 percent in total. Experimental animals which have been killed painlessly in research only for the collection of biological samples (e.g. from cells, tissues and organs) have not been used in animal experiments or other studies.

The proportion of genetically modified animals in 2020 in the Max Planck Society was 73 percent. Only 2 percent of all laboratory animals with genetic modification experienced any adverse health effects as a result. The vast majority of all genetically modified animals (mostly rodents) did not show any health abnormalities (71 percent).

Model organism fruit fly
The common kitchen pest Drosophila melanogaster is indispensable as a model organism in the lab.
Model organism zebrafish
Thanks to fish, researchers can forego experiments with higher vertebrates.
Model organism mouse
Mice make up the majority of vertebrates in the animal research facilities of the Max Planck Institutes.
Primate research
In Germany, research involving monkies is only allowed under observation of strict legal regulations.

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