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Hundreds of thousands of animals used illegally by French laboratories

Hundreds of thousands of animals used illegally by French laboratories

Mis à jour le 04 October 2022

The new report by the European Union on the figures on animal testing in 2019 has just come out. Like the previous, it reports on the use of experiments for which alternatives have existed for more than ten years. And as usual, France has a leading role in these illegal uses. We have contacted the Ministry of Research to ask for an explanation.

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Public authorities and other organisations who champion animal testing tell us over and over again that this is only done when no alternative is available. It is in fact a legal obligation, despite article L. 214-3 of the Rural Code and the European Directive on the use of animals for scientific purposes.

So why do we still hear about pyrogenicity testing on rabbits, irritation and corrosion testing on the skin or eyes of rodents, or even the production of monoclonal antibodies thanks to the particularly harsh ascites method? In fact, alternatives have existed for years, approved by the European agency responsible for their validation (ECVAM).

Irritation and corrosion testing

The alternatives to irritation and corrosion testing on the skin and eyes were approved in 2000 and some were even the subject of a regulatory recommendation from ECVAM. However, tests on animals continue in the European Union – and in particular in France. In fact, from 2015 to 2019, more than a third of testing carried out in the EU was done in France.

Pyrogen tests

Pyrogen tests consist of injecting a substance into rabbits and measuring the onset of fever. The number of rabbits used for these tests in the European Union reduced by a third between 2015 and 2019. But France, always quick to ignore European law, swam against the current by doubling its use of rabbits for these tests in the same period. It has therefore won the award for the largest number of rabbits used for pyrogen tests in 2019, with 39% of uses in the European Union, way ahead of Spain (29%) and Germany (21%).

“Monocyte activation tests” in vitro (MAT) were nevertheless filed in 2002 with ECVAM, approved in 2006, and included in 2009 in the European pharmacopoeia as a viable alternative to the pyrogen test using rabbits.

The ‘ascites method’

But there is worse. The ‘ascites method’, a particularly cruel process for rodents and rabbits, is still topical in the European Union. To blame in 95% of cases: France.

In 1998, ECVAM were already talking about in vitro alternatives available, emphasising that “monoclonal antibody production using the ascites method is no longer scientifically necessary, except for in certain exceptional cases“. In 2020, they went even further, stating that “monoclonal production using the ascites method should no longer be acceptable, whatever the circumstances”.

Among the explanations given in the Ministry of Research’s statistical files, some are surreal. Just as, in 2019 and 2020, more than twenty thousand usages of animals were justified by the idea that “this antibody is requested in large quantities, the alternative methods cannot respond to this need”. You would think that industrial interests are more important than the law.

Where are the sanctions?

All in all, more than 300,000 animals have thus been used illegally in France between 2015 and 2020, while lobbies and ministries kept bragging to us about the regulations and the strict obligation to use existing alternatives. Faced with lies and stonewalling from the authorities responsible for implementing regulations, we can easily understand the public’s mistrust.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry of Research, we are asking for explanations of the reasons for these illegal uses, on the penalties expected for the responsible establishments, and on the measures implemented to ensure that no projects are accepted from now on that use animals while alternatives exist.


2015-2020 statistic files provided by the Ministry in charge of Research (see our presentation of these figures at
Statistical reports
from the European Union (the last of which dates back to mid-July 2022, regarding the 2019 figures).

Translated from the French by Joely Justice

Nicolas Marty
Hr blog

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Comments 9

I accept that publication of my comments is subject to the code of conduct.

Françoise | Friday 05 August 2022


linette | Thursday 04 August 2022

Il faut arrêter ces souffrances ; il existe d'autres moyens pour les labos que d'utiliser des animaux qui sont des êtres sensibles, quels qu'ils soient.

Isaline | Tuesday 02 August 2022

Il faut que ça change un jour pour que les animaux ne subissent plus toutes ces horreurs !!

Bambino | Monday 01 August 2022

Je suis écœurée devant cette boucherie même au nom de la science a-t-on le droit de cautionner ces tortures surtout en sachant que l'on peut agir autrement ?
Pardon au monde animal.