Author Archives: Speaking of Research

UK Government defends Beagle Breeding facilty

As early as 2013 we discussed why it made sense, from an animal welfare perspective, for the UK to approve the expansion of the B&K beagle breeding facility. The UK currently imports 20% of dogs used in research (the rest are bred at UK breeding facilities). The expanded facility in Hull hopes to reduce the numbers bred abroad, reducing the number of animals bred far away from the UK Home Office inspectors, and which must endure long flights at a young age to reach their destination. The Oppose B&K campaign, now joined by a number of other high profile animal rights groups, has fought the decision in the courts and through protests on the streets, but in July 2015, planning for the expanded breeding facility was approved by the Government. Since then, there has been a rash of protests and petitions.

Laboratory DogsWe wrote an article shortly after the decision to explain why we thought people were wrong to oppose the new breeding facility, saying:

Surely it is better to breed them here in the UK, where we have some of the highest standards of laboratory animal welfare in the world and where our facilities can be easily monitored by the Animals in Science Regulation Unit inspectors? The new breeding facility offers animal welfare standards above and beyond those demanded by the Government. Dogs will be kept in socially housed groups in multi-level pens which can be joined together to create larger runs for the animals. All the animals will have toys and enrichment in their enclosures, and will interact with trained laboratory technicians every day. It is this sort of investment in animal welfare we, as an animal-loving nation, should embrace

An official UK Government e-petition (which demands email verification and address details) reached 15,000 signatures (compared with around 500,00 for a petition which can be more easily manipulated). This prompted an official response from the Government. It is excellent, and well worth a read:

The use of animals, including dogs, in research is a vital tool for the development of new medicines and technologies. In order to ensure animals are protected, we have a rigorous regulatory system.

Planning ministers assessed the application’s planning merits and granted it permission on those grounds. The decision letter fully explains the reasons for this decision. The letter and related Inspector’s report can be viewed at:
Home Office regulatory safeguards
The use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work both in health and disease which is crucial for the development of new medicines and cutting edge medical technologies for both humans and animals, and for the protection of our environment.

The Government has a strong commitment to maintaining a rigorous regulatory system under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (the Act). Guidance can be found here:
The regulatory system ensures that animal research and testing is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists, and that suffering is kept to a minimum. This is achieved through applying the principles of the 3Rs which require that, in every research proposal, animals are replaced with non-animal alternatives wherever possible; that the number of animals used is reduced to the minimum needed to achieve the results sought; and that, for those animals which must be used, procedures are refined as much as possible to minimise their suffering.

All applications for research to be conducted are assessed by Home Office Inspectors. The harm benefit assessment conducted provides advice to the Home Secretary that the likely harms are justified by the expected benefits. Only after completion of this process will the Home Secretary consider granting a licence for the proposed work to go ahead. All Inspectors hold either veterinary or medical qualifications and are specially trained. Proposals must also have been considered by the research establishment’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body.

Once a licence is granted, establishments are regularly inspected for compliance with their licence and the legislation.

The breeding and use of dogs in the UK
On occasion this research requires the use of dogs, mainly purpose-bred beagles. Dogs are accorded special protection under the Act and licences are only granted where justified where the specific results sought can only be achieved by using a dog.

All animals, including dogs, must be housed in accordance with the Code of Practice published by the Home Office: This sets standards for the housing, environmental enrichment, socialisation and exercise required for dogs in UK facilities. These standards are also regularly checked and monitored by Inspectors during often unannounced inspections.

Where it is essential to use dogs in research, it is better for their welfare that they should have been bred in facilities which meet the UK’s high standards and which are located close to the place where the dogs will subsequently be used. This minimises the potential stress of lengthy transport.

Currently less than 0.1% of animals used in research in the UK are dogs. Of these, more than 80% of the dogs that underwent procedures in 2013 were used in applied studies for human medicine or dentistry. Dogs are also used extensively in veterinary research to better understand naturally occurring diseases and to develop treatments and preventatives such as vaccines. Around 2% are used in fundamental biological research.

Following a Government ban in 1998, no animals have been used in testing cosmetics in the UK. The use of any species is also not permitted for the development or testing of alcohol or tobacco products as well as offensive weapons. During 2015, the Government is also implementing a ban on the testing of household products on animals.

Many people are understandably concerned what happens to animals, particularly dogs, at the end of scientific procedures and we are keen to encourage re-homing where appropriate. In deciding whether a dog should be re-homed, consideration of its welfare must be the first priority. It must be free from suffering and the likelihood of future suffering and it must have been adequately prepared to adapt to the new home environment. The types of studies that dogs are currently used for mean that the majority cannot be re-homed as it is often necessary to collect essential post mortem data at the end of a study. Such data is critical to achieving the scientific outcome for which the licence has been granted to enable the benefit of the research to be realised. Further information can be found on the Animals in Science Regulation Unit’s website:

This clear, informative response shows exactly how a Government should be approaching the animal research issue – openly, but with the clear message that such research plays an important part in the health of a nation.

Speaking of Research

National Primate Centre shows off its monkeys

We were sent some wonderful pictures of monkeys (mainly macaques) to share with our readers. Thank you to Kathy West and the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) for these pictures. Images like this play an important part in letting people see the conditions that animals are kept in at their research facilities. These photographs are from the large outdoor corrals where most of the primates are kept at CNPRC.

CNPRC uses primates in important medical and scientific research and has a huge array of accomplishments to its name. These include:

  • Due to our development and testing of tenofovir (PMPA), HIV-infected mothers can give birth to HIV-free infants and HIV-infected people can live long and healthy lives. Tenofovir has become the key ingredient of successful prophylaxes, and is the most commonly used anti-HIV drug in the world.
  • Our research found a link between environmental tobacco smoke exposure and adverse effects on prenatal, neonatal and childhood lung development, cognitive function, and brain development
  • Our research has advanced the understanding of developmental timelines in the kidney, and applied these findings to new protocols and tissue engineering approaches to regenerate kidneys damaged by obstructive disease.
  • Novel development of therapies at the CNPRC are being used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Ongoing research is demonstrating that reversal of damage and restoration of brain function is possible.
  • Our research discovered a link between an infant’s temperament and asthma – research is leading towards the screening, prediction and prevention of lung disease in children

These images are shared on a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND Licence (see below). Please ensure you attribute to

Creative Commons License
Rhesus macaque at California National Primate Research Center ©UC Davis/CNPRC by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Speaking of Research

What happens when an animal rights activist tours an animal research lab?

What would you do if an activist group, whose Facebook wall features the extremist group the ALF, asked to tour your labs? While many people would ignore their request, the University of Guelph (Canada) invited the individual in to tour the facility and answer their questions.

Animal Rights Compliance Facebook page

Animal Rights Compliance Facebook page

A post on the Animal Rights Compliance Facebook page on the 12th September 2015 states that they believe in “The complete abolition vivisection, animal research or drug testing cosmetics, testing of consumer products on animals. Infractions need to be dealt with by fines and minimum incarceration times.” So one might not expect a glowing review on Facebook when the (anonymous) individual reported back.

See transcript of picture at the bottom of this post

See transcript of picture at the bottom of this post

Instead we get an honest account of a research institution which is working hard to improve animal welfare. Huge congratulations to the University of Guelph, and particularly Mary Fowler, the animal facility manager, as they once again show that openness trumps misinformation. The report shows how many people, including activists, are unaware of conditions in labs and can be surprised and impressed when they discover how animals are really treated.

“Mary was very transparent with the University’s policies and I was given a tour of where, currently, only 6 dogs are housed. I was impressed with several issues; The University has extensive dogwalking/caregiving procedures, as well as adoption policies using staff, students and volunteers. It works in co-ordination with the local and area Humane Societies. My understanding is that their treatment models are evolving all the time, with the replacement of live animals with other means whenever possible. Another example is that spay and neutered pets are regularly returned to the Humane Society for adoption. “

A full transcript exists at the bottom of this post for those who cannot see the image. Credit is also due to the unnamed activist who toured the facility and reported back – it’s great to see people be willing to go in with an open mind and report back honestly on what they saw.

Read more about how the University of Guelph gets involved in outreach activities about their animal research through public engagement, internal communication and tours. Also, read their public statement on animal research.

Major advances in the health of humans and animals can be attributed to research using live animals. As an institution, the University of Guelph supports the principle that animals may be used in science only where necessary and where there are no alternative means that will produce the same results to benefit the health of humans and animals.

The University of Guelph has a long history of conducting innovative, multidisciplinary research with partners at other universities, government, and from the private sector. Through partnerships with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food the university plays a key role in research and teaching in the life sciences and agriculture. With a broad range of species, from laboratory rodents to farm animals, fish and wildlife, the University of Guelph has one of Canada’s largest and most versatile animal care and use programs. The University continues to be on the leading edge of animal-based science, the training of highly qualified personnel, and the promotion of welfare and health advancements for animals and humans through research and teaching

Visitors to the open house at the University of Guelph Central Animal Facility learn about research and environmental enrichment over lunch. Credit: Janet Gugan

Visitors to the open house at the University of Guelph Central Animal Facility learn about research and environmental enrichment over lunch. Credit: Janet Gugan

Speaking of Research


If the image from the activist did not come up on your computer, here is a full transcript.

MEETING WITH MARY FOWLER, MANAGER, ANIMAL FACILITIES OFFICE OF RESEARCH, University OF Guelph, Sept.16/15: I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Fowler today, at my request, as I was inquiring about the University’s policies on using live animals. esp. dogs in research. Mary was very transparent with the University’s policies and I was given a tour of where, currently, only 6 dogs are housed. I was impressed with several issues; The University has extensive dogwalking/caregiving procedures, as well as adoption policies using staff, students and volunteers. It works in co-ordination with the local and area Humane Societies. My understanding is that their treatment models are evolving all the time, with the replacement of live animals with other means whenever possible. Another example is that spay and neutered pets are regularly returned to the Humane Society for adoption. It is also my understanding that the University does not do such vivisection procedures as cosmetic testing. While we would all like to see all animals cage-free, I would say a greater good appears to being served when animals are treated with respect and given some sort of a life, then adopted out, on average between 6-8 months. I am not sure how else Vets could learn to save animal lives. The point recognized, I think, is that there is a general agreement about needless animal suffering. Thanks again to Mary and her staff.

A new year resolution for the new academic year

As many students and faculty begin the new academic year, there is a resolution that all of us need. To be more open about animal research and how we are involved in it.

Possible ways to get involved:

Small effort (1 – 5 minutes):

Bigger effort (20 – 60 minutes):

We need your help – we need more people to get involved in writing for us – this can be through guest posts or by joining the committee and writing from within. Articles are generally 400 – 1200 words in length and can be . We need help writing about:

Could you provide photographs of animals from your lab – we need to show the world what animal research looks like. We will use them to help show the high standards of welfare in labs across the world.

animal testing, animal research, vivisection, animal experiment

An example photograph provided for Speaking of Research to use.

Large effort:

Have you considered joining the Speaking of Research committee. We ask that committee members provide a guest post for SR before they join. We are looking for keen scientists and animal welfare staff from across the world to help us keep ahead of the latest developments, support us in writing material for the website, and generally contribute to keeping Speaking of Research an organisation that can make a difference.

So what are you waiting for, tear yourself away from your research paper and get involved with helping our work in explaining the important role of animals in medical research.

Internet Writing Science Blog


Speaking of Research

Israel provides animal research statistics for 2014

The 2014 statistics from the Israeli National Council for Animal Experimentation show a 13 percent increase in animals used, reports Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

The 340,330 animals used in experimentation in 2014 represent the highest animal use since 2007, the peak of animal experimentation in Israel. Rodents comprised the majority (84 percent) of the animals used for experiments, birds and fish came next with around 7% each, while larger mammals accounted for only 1.3 percent of the total. The number of mice used, 236,000, represents a 12 percent increase over the 2013 amount.

Animals used in research in Israel 2010-14

For the second year in a row, no dogs or cats were used as experimental subjects. More monkeys were used for experimentation than in previous years; however, the National Council for Animal Experimentation report notes that Israel, with a rehabilitation rate of 89 percent, ranks among the countries with the highest reintegration rates for monkeys.

Dogs cats monkeys used in Israel 2010-2014

Seven percent of the animals were fish, which represents a three-fold increase over the previous year. The report by the National Council for Animal Experimentation attributes this increase to a concerted effort to use the lowest animal on the “developmental scale” that is scientifically appropriate.

On the five point pain scale, 12 percent of experimental animals were exposed to the highest amount of pain and 19 percent were ranked in the lowest pain category. Strict supervision of the animals by veterinarians and unannounced laboratory inspections prevent unnecessary pain for the animals, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Medical and scientific research were the main uses for the animals, accounting for 46 and 45 percent, respectively. Testing new products and materials used eight percent of the animals, and one percent was used for teaching.

Transparent reports of animal use contribute to public education about animal research. Speaking of Research continues to report on these statistical reports as they come out, most recently the 2014 statistics for the United States and Ireland and the 2012 Canadian report.

Alyssa Ward

Does your institution talk about its animal research?

A position statement can help an institution be open and transparent about why and how it uses animals in its biomedical research. This can help pre-empt questions from the public or media, it can provide a basis for replying to news stories, and it shows its researchers that it is proud of the important work they do. For this reason we believe all institutions should have a public statement (see ours).

With the help of our readers we’ve been creating a list of the position statements. This list currently encompasses 161 research institutions including universities, pharmaceuticals, medical research charities and funding bodies.

Check if your institution is on the list

Country Number of web statements
Number of institutions doing animal research
Canada 4 More than 4
Germany 7 More than 7
Netherlands 1 More than 1
Switzerland 2 More than 2
United Kingdom 76 More than 76
United States 56 More than 56
International 15 More than 15

Clearly our list is incomplete (though to the UK’s credit, their list of web statements accounts for a significant proportion of institutions doing animal research). This is partly because our list is missing some existing statements, and partly because some institutions do not have a statement. We need your help to expand the list.

To that end, we’ve made a handy flow chart to help you work out what to do once you’ve checked if your institution is on our list.

Institutioinal positioin statementFind our article ‘What makes a good animal research statementhere. Also, take a look at some of these exemplary position statements and webpages about animal research:

Speaking of Research

New FBR website offers more information for public

With a slick new website, the Foundation or Biomedical Research (FBR) has made it easier than ever to access accurate scientific information on their website. FBR has worked for over 30 years to educate the public about the importance of science and animal research in efforts to improve the health of animals and humans alike; their new website represents another step along that path.

Foundatioin for Biomedical Research website

The new website layout provides easy access to information emphasizing the role of animals in scientific discoveries, such as the animal research behind the 25 most frequently prescribed drugs treating human diseases. The media center provides press releases and videos about the need for animals in research, including a press release about the public support for using non-human primates to develop an Ebola vaccine during the epidemic this past year. The page footer features other organizations that promote animal research, (including Speaking of Research!) and links to fact sheets, including those highlighting research using rodent models and non-human primates. With links to blog posts, education materials, and the @researchsaves twitter feed, FBR has provided their audience with easy access to information on the benefits of animal research. Great job!

Alyssa Ward