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Germany: Number of laboratory animals falls for the third year in a row

29/2023, 11.12.2023

Significant decrease in both used and unused animals

The downward trend in the number of laboratory animals continued in 2022 in Germany. Compared to the previous year, the number of laboratory animals decreased by around seven per cent in 2022. According to the national laboratory animal statistics, a total of 1.73 million vertebrates and cephalopods were used in animal experiments in accordance with Section 7 (2) of the Animal Welfare Act, which is around 134,000 fewer animals than in 2021. These statistics are published annually by the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R), which is part of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). “The trend is that fewer and fewer animal experiments are being carried out in Germany,” says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “One of the possible reasons is that replacement methods and reduction measures are gradually gaining acceptance.”

Around 79 percent of the laboratory animals used in experiments were mice and rats. There was a significant decrease in the number of mice in 2022 (1,248,790 animals used) compared to the previous year (1,342,779 animals used). The number of rats also fell sharply in 2022 (109,936 animals used) compared to 2021 (135,022 animal use). Moreover, the number of fish declined in 2022 (212,371 animals used; 226,094 in 2021).

In 2022, fewer cats were used (538 animals used) than in 2021 (862 animals used ), but at the same time more dogs were deployed (2,873 animals used) compared to the previous year (2,657 animals used). Dogs and cats are used in particular for research on animal diseases and for regulatory testing of veterinary and human medicines. Dogs are also used for training purposes in low-stress experiments. In 2022, the number of rabbits (67,125 animals used in experiments, 62,771 in 2021) and birds (28,075 animals used, 25,745 in 2021) also increased. The number of monkeys and prosimians (2,204 animals used) increased again in 2022 compared to the previous year (2021: 1,886 animals used). Monkeys are used in particular for legally required testing of human medicinal products. Great apes were last used for scientific purposes in Germany in 1991.

Two out of three experiments are of mild severity

The severity for the laboratory animals can be classified as predominantly mild (66.3 percent) indicating a slight increase in 2022 of experiments with a mild severity degree. This reverses the trend of 2021, when the proportion of mild animal experiments fell (63.2 per cent) compared to the previous year. The proportion of animal experiments with a moderate severity (25.4 percent) and experiments classified as severe (3.6 per cent) also fell in 2022, indicating an overall trend towards experiments with a mild degree of severity. The percentage of animals in experiments, that were carried out under general anaesthesia, from which the animals did not recover (non-recovery of vital function), was 4.7 per cent. More information on the definition of severity:

In addition to the animals used in experiments, the number of animals killed for scientific purposes, for example, to use their organs or tissue for cell cultures, is also reported in Germany. That number (711,939) increased significantly by around 11 percent in 2022 compared to 2021 (644,132). With this, around 2.44 million laboratory animals were used in total for scientific purposes in 2022. Compared to 2021, this is an overall decrease of 2.6 per cent.

Due to the amended Laboratory Animal Reporting Ordinance in 2021, the BfR is for the second time publishing the numbers of animals that were bred for scientific purposes but not used for these purposes and then killed. In 2022, this group comprised around 1.77 million animals in 2022, while around 2.5 million such animals were reported in 2021. This represents a decrease of around 31 percent.

Around 85 percent of the animals reported in this group were mice and 11 percent zebrafish. The majority of the animals originated from the breeding of genetically modified animal lines. These animals often do not have the desired genetic modification and therefore cannot be used in corresponding experiments. Research facilities must take all proportionate measures to reduce the production of these unused and killed animals. These figures registered for the reporting year 2022 were also submitted to the European Commission as part of the 5-year reporting.

The BfR is organising a stakeholder forum on this topic in Berlin on 15 December 2023. Further information can be found at:

Research into diseases in humans and animals

In 2022, around 55 percent of laboratory animals were used for basic research (e.g. to study the immune and nervous systems). Around 14 percent were used for research on diseases (such as cancer) in humans and animals, and around 16 percent were used in the production or quality control of medicinal products or for toxicological safety testing. Around 15 percent were required for experiments targeting other purposes, such as education or training, conservation of species or breeding of genetically modified animals.

The proportion of genetically modified animals was around 53 percent in 2022, an increase compared to the previous year (2021: 51 per cent). However,the absolute number of animals was smaller in 2022 (918,276) in comparison to the previous year (952,837). 

Notably, mice (85 percent) and zebrafish (14 percent) were used. Genetically modified animals were used in particular for basic research. They are used to improve the research on diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's or infections and their treatment - and in some cases makes it possible in the first place.

Strict requirements under the Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Welfare Ordinance for Laboratory Animals lay down strict requirements for the authorisation, performance and monitoring of animal experiments. For example, they stipulate the purposes for which they may be carried out. When deciding on an authorisation, it must always be checked whether the intended purpose cannot be achieved by other methods or procedures.

Authorisation and control of animal experiments is the responsibility of the state authorities responsible for animal welfare. They report the numbers of laboratory animals collected by the laboratory animal facilities to the BfR, which collects and analyses the data and forwards it to the European Commission. The basis for this reporting obligation is the EU Directive 2010/63/EU for the Protection of Laboratory Animals. The BfR has been publishing the animal testing figures since the 2020 reporting year.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. The BfR advises the Federal Government and the States (‘Laender’) on questions of food, chemicals and product safety. The BfR conducts independent research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

About the Bf3R

The German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R) was founded in 2015 and is an integral part of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). It coordinates nationwide activities with the aim of limiting animal experiments to the absolute minimum and ensuring the best possible protection for laboratory animals. It also aims to stimulate research activities worldwide and promote scientific dialogue.


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