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Meet the Animals: How They Live and Die






Meet the Animals

Categories of Experimentation

The Opposition to Experimentation

"for" Animals

Medical Experimentation
& Use

Military Experimentation

Educational Use

Israel's Complicity

Products & Charities

Recent Examples
of Experiments
in Israel





Photo: Thomas Lersch

Who They Are

In Israel, as in many other countries, the law does not require statistics on the number of animals used in experiments to be collected. The National Council for Animal Experiments, the body overseeing animal research in Israel, occasionally publishes partial statistics. In 2000, the last year for which detailed statistics are available, Israeli civilian laboratories used 140,146 mice, 64,852 rats, 26,611 birds, 2,322 rabbits, 1,564 guinea pigs, 1,516 opossums, 1,139 hamsters, 1,077 sheep and goats, 721 cattle, 560 fish, 312 pigs, 191 dogs, 182 amphibians, 140 gerbils, 117 cats, 70 turtles and 39 monkeys. In total, 241,559 animals were used by the non-military sector.


These are only partial statistics. They don't cover animal experiments by the military, which uses a large number of vertebrates. The Israel Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona, for example, is considered to be one of the largest users of animals in Israel. It is annexed to the office of the Prime Minister, and, according to foreign publications, researchers working there test biological and chemical warfare agents on live animals. The Israeli Army also uses animals for example, in routine Advanced Trauma and Life Support (ATLS) courses — despite the fact that a non-animal alternative was approved by the American College of Surgeons (see Educational Use).


The actual number of animals used by Israeli laboratories is unknown, but a reasonable estimate would be around 500,000 vertebrates per year.


How They Live and Die

Husbandry conditions in Israel are covered by regulations issued in 2001 by the National Council for Animal Experiments. The Council chose as a model those issued in the U.S. the the least protective of animals of all existing regulatory systems in the Western world. Since the Animal Welfare Act in the U.S. does not apply to rodents and birds (the vast majority of animals used for experimentation), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the government agency responsible for implementing the Act, did not publish husbandry regulations for these species. In Israel, however, the Law covers all vertebrates, so the Council had to look elsewhere for model regulations. The Council adopted the guidelines of the National Research Council in the U.S., an organization with vested interest in animal experimentation.


Consequently, the living conditions of animals in Israeli laboratories are among the worst in the Western world. For example, the minimal cage floor area for a mouse weighing 15 grams is 52 square centimeters in Israel, compared with 180 square centimeters under the guidelines of the Council of Europe. Similarly, an average-sized dog weighing 15 kilograms can be caged in a small space of 0.72 square meters in Israel, compared with 2.8 square meters mandated by the Council of Europe. The European regulations are valid in 43 European countries, including all members of the European Union.


For almost any vertebrate species mentioned in the regulations, the husbandry conditions in Israel fall short of the European guidelines. Israeli regulations are even worse when compared to the husbandry conditions mandated in some countries, such as Switzerland. The latest Swiss regulations require that primates be kept only in groups (typically of 5 individuals), and that the floor area for an average macaque monkey be 3 square meters. In Israel, primates can be caged singly, and the cage size required for a typical macaque is only 0.5 square meters.


Cage size has an enormous impact on the welfare of animals in laboratories. The smaller the cage size and the more deprived the environment, the more stress and suffering the animal will experience. Husbandry conditions are not considered part of the actual experiment, but since some animals (for example, primates) can spend years in laboratories, the deprived environment in which they are forced to live must taken into account when considering the animal welfare cost of vivisection.

REALITY CHECK: Examples of Animal Experiments in Israel