New statistics reveal record-high animal use in South Korean laboratories, nearing 5 million in 2022

Humane Society International / South Korea


SEOUL—South Korea’s annual statistics on scientific use of animals reveal a record-high 4,995,680 in 2022, continuing an alarming upward trend. This is the highest number of animal use since the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs started publishing the statistics in 2012.

The animal protection group Humane Society International/Korea condemns the steady increase in animal testing and calls for substantial and immediate action to position human-relevant approaches as the gold standard in Korean regulatory and bio-science testing. Nearly half of animals used in 2022 were subjected to the most severe category of experiment in which they are denied anesthetic or tranquilizing drugs while being exposed to massive doses of chemicals or used for cancer or infectious disease studies that will result in their deaths.

The 2022 statistical information also shows that animals are used most frequently in areas such as regulatory testing, basic research and translational research. For all these areas, there are immediately available alternatives to animal methods or non-animal methodologies that can be applied, such as human cell-based skin testing methods. Despite available approaches without using animals, the number of newly opened animal testing facilities also increased from 2021 to 2022.

HSI/Korea’s director of government affairs, Borami Seo, said: “This report shows that Korean bio-science is stuck in the past, heavily relying on animal testing despite new human mimetic methodologies emerging without animal use. We urge lawmakers to pass legislation that will support science without animal suffering. This will be critical in placing South Korea in the center of the rising global trend to advance human health studies and treatment.”

Globally, studies such as organ-on-a-chip or organoid are receiving increasing attention because they have been shown to sometimes real-world predict human-biology based outcomes more accurately than the results that are obtained from animal models. While there are sporadic funding opportunities by central governments to study these non-animal approaches, HSI/Korea argues that a legislative system is necessary to support not only such research efforts, but also to ensure  adaptation by regulatory authorities and use at the industrial level. Currently there are two bills introduced at the National Assembly, the Act on the Promotion of Development, Dissemination, and Use of Alternatives to Animal Testing Methods, sponsored by Assembly member In-soon Nam and the Act on the Vitalization of Development, Dissemination, and Use of Alternatives to Animal Testing Methods, sponsored by Assembly member Jeoung-Ae Han.

Read the Official 2022 Lab Animal Statistics (In Korean)


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