Records exposed under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that 4,162 live animals were used in research by UCC alone in 2016, primarily mice and rats, but also pigs, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs. Almost €200,000 was spent in sourcing the animals through domestic and international suppliers, with another €3,000 spent to dispose of the remains. The news comes after recent revelations that almost 110,000 animals were used in experiments in the past 5 years in Trinity College Dublin.
Criticism from animal welfare groups has been abundant and widespread, with the Irish Anti-Vivisection Society (IAVS) condemning the use of live animals in research at UCC, asserting that the group was “appalled that UCC is failing to address the pain and death it causes to animals, with their death toll remaining broadly static at 4,000 to 4,500 a year.” Although UCC has confirmed that all animals used in their experiments are euthanised according to the appropriate legislation, IAVS Chairperson Yvonne Smalley criticised the lax regulation in the area by the government, saying:”[t]he scientific consensus is moving on, with increasing recognition that experiments on animals are… often misleading regarding human health and safety.” Irish novelist John Banville has declared the use of live animals in research as “absolutely disgraceful”, asking “[i]f the animals don’t suffer, why don’t (the researchers) volunteer themselves? It would be much better to have a human being to experiment on that an animal.”
Chairperson of UCC Animal Welfare Society Peter Prout reiterated comments made by the IAVS, referring to the use of these animals in experiments as a “backwards practice that has no place in modern science” and highlighting that, while the university “has claimed some success was had from their experiments, there has been no mention of the countless animals put into stressful and painful conditions before being killed without any useful information obtained.”
UCC Vice-President for Research and Innovation Professor Anita R Maguire defended the practice of using live animals in experiments, declaring that alternatives were conducted where possible, but that live animals were used only where positive outcomes in the area of human health could not otherwise be realised. These areas of research included irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obstetrics and gynaecology, anxiety, and depression. The university specified that no animals were used in cosmetic testing. UCC’s website declares that any research involving experimentation on live animals must be approved by the Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee in UCC, as well as securing the necessary licences under legislation.
Data revealed under the same Act highlighted that, during the years 2012-14, Trinity College used the most animals in research, followed by UCC and NUI Galway. UCC used 8,202 animals in experiments in 2012. 5,120 animals were used in the academic year of 2012/13, and 4,535 animals the following year. Cork Institute of Technology said it did not use live animals in experiments.
The use of 4,162 live animals by UCC in experimentation in 2016 consisted of 3,732 mice, 377 rats, 25 pigs, 20 guinea pigs, five birds, and three rabbits. Sourcing these animals ran a total cost of €192,351 for the university.