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May 18, 2016

Skyrocketing Korean Lab Animal Use is a Missed Opportunity for Human-Relevant Medical Research

Animal use spiked by 37 percent since 2012; 286 animal deaths per hour

Humane Society International

  • © Mariya Bibikova/iStockphoto

Statistics released in the past week by the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs document a stunning 36.7 percent increase in animal use between 2012 and 2015 for an unprecedented total of 2,507,000 animals used in testing. This rise in animal use will increase further as hundreds of pre-existing chemicals undergo new testing in accordance with the “K-REACH” legislation and the country’s shameful establishment of a large-scale animal inhalation testing facility. Humane Society International urges the government to actively seek the strategy and budget for non-animal science.

Humane Society International issued the following statement: “State-of-the-art cellular, computational, robotic and bioengineering tools are already superseding many of the scientific limitations of traditional animal-based approaches. Pharmaceutical regulators estimate that as many as 95 percent of potential new drugs that appear safe and effective in animal studies fail when given to humans. To reverse the slow pace of progress in treating major diseases, and do better at preventing public health disasters, Korea needs to make a far greater investment in sophisticated tools and technologies that are not only just as, if not more, relevant to humans but are also thousands of times faster and cheaper.”

Help us end animal suffering in testing laboratories.

MAFRA’s press release cites a shift from testing on “higher” species (e.g., mammals) to “lower” species (e.g., fish) as an animal welfare improvement. Although refinement of experimental methods is indeed welcome, HSI believes that the future lies in full replacement of animals. Worldwide, companies and government authorities are refocusing their research efforts to understand the root causes and “pathways” of human toxicity and disease at the molecular and cellular levels.

Examples of modern, human-based testing approaches: 

  • Germany’s virtual liver network has brought together 70 research groups to develop a cutting-edge multi-scale model that can accurately simulate the functioning of the human liver.
  • Harvard University’s Wyss Institute is one of the world’s leading developers of organs-on-a-chip, providing an in vitro approach to drug screening by mimicking the complicated mechanical and biochemical behaviours of 10 different human organs.
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is coordinating a large-scale research collaboration among its 34 member countries to document the fundamental biology at the root of chemical toxicity in humans. Korea’s contribution is being led by the Korean Institute of Toxicology, which is contributing its expertise in liver and kidney toxicity.

Media contact: Borami Seo, bseo@hsi.org, +82. 2. 6376. 1405

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