Demonstrators in rabbi costumes protesting animal testing.
Demonstrators dressed in rabbit costumes petition the European Commission against animal testing on June 20. Photo by AP
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Animal experiments in 2011
Animal experients in Israel in 2011.

Although there has been a steady decline in laboratory tests on animals since 2007, Israel remains liable to criticism from animal rights groups. The Health Ministry's council for experimentation on animals released for the first time Sunday disturbing data about the objects of lab testing: In 2011, just 3 percent of animals subjected to lab testing were returned to nature at the end of the experiments. The report does not relate to thousands of animals exposed to tests conducted by the defense establishment.

The data indicate that in 2011, tests were conducted on 279,608 animals. This represents a 2.4 percent drop compared to the preceding year. Most of lab tests conducted last year featured mice (63 percent ) and rats (20 percent ). Over 25,000 chickens were subjected to lab testing, as were 9,600 fish, 1,340 frogs, 1,020 pigs, 960 cows, 195 bats, 90 pigeons, 33 monkeys, 10 horses, 14 dogs and four cats.

Responding a request filed by the Behind Closed Doors non-profit organization that promotes animal rights in lab testing, the ministry's council carried out this unprecedented disclosure of details about experimentation on animals in 2011. As it turns out, the vast majority of animals - 97 percent - are killed at the end of experimentation. Just a small fraction of animals, 6,286 in total, were returned to nature or to their habitat. Of those returned to their natural habitat, 893 were cows, 750 were fish and 45 were bats. The data indicate that 62 percent of lab animals suffered from continuing pain, at various levels of intensity. An international scale of pain in lab testing was applied in these findings.

"We are pleased by the decrease in the use of animals in testing, and hope that this attests to a welcome trend rather than a coincidental statistic," commented Behind Closed Doors director Anat Refua. "At the same time, the last state comptroller's report referred to a number of major problems in the monitoring and conduct of lab testing on animals in Israel, and we are committed to continuing our work to reduce the number of tests until they are eliminated entirely. Experiments on animals represent bad, barbaric science. They are immoral and needlessly harm animals."

The May 2011 state comptroller's report identified problems in Health Ministry monitoring of animal testing. The report also called attention to problems in animal testing conducted in university laboratories in Israel.

In 2011, Haaretz reported that the council is considering slapping a fee on parties that conduct lab tests on animals. The report also mentioned that the council rejected the Health Ministry director general's recommendation that it opens its hearings to the public.