Author Archives: Tom

Animal Research Stats for the Netherlands in 2013

The Dutch authorities have reported on the 2013 animal experiment statistics, which were recently released by junior economic affairs minister, Sharon Dijksma.

The total numbers fell 10.6% to 526,593 animals, of which 93% were mice, rats birds or fish. This total is over 60% smaller than the historic peak of  over 1.5 million animals used in 1978.

animal research holland netherlands dutch statistics

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Full statistics can be downloaded (in Dutch) from the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The number of primates fell over 30% from 393 to 262 between 2012 and 2013.The number of experiments on genetically modified animals fells by 4% (3,502 animals) from 92,055 to 88,553 – though they now represent a larger proportion of the total number (16.8%, up from 15.6% in 2012).

According to Dutch News, 88 organisations are licensed to conduct animal studies.

Like the UK, and several other EU countries (e.g. Denmark, Germany, Switzerland), the Dutch Government publishes a breakdown, by species, of the number of animals involved in experiments every year. This proactive publication of the animal research statistics is definitely a step in the right direction for openness surrounding animal research.

Speaking of Research

What does your institution say about its animal research?

There was a time when institutions conducting animal research would deny that they did so (some still do!). Thankfully most research institutions have started down the path of openness. The first step, for many of these institutions, is to put a statement on their website explaining why animal research is necessary. As an institution moves towards greater transparency they may include case studies, statistics about their animal use, and information about their animal welfare.

Speaking of Research is compiling a list of statements from institutions about their animal research. We have picked either their public-facing statement, or, where appropriate, their public-facing animal research information page.

If university’s do not stand up and explain why they conduct animal research, then why should anyone else support this work? Scientists want to know their institution values their research – a public statement of support is the first step towards that goal.

Please check if your institution is included by searching (Ctrl+F) the list, which is ordered by country. If not, have we simply missed the page – in which case send us the link. Or does it not have one, in which case we recommend emailing the appropriate senior administrators and encourage them to write one.

Oxford University's Statement on Animal Research

Oxford University’s Statement on Animal Research (Click to Enlarge)

Openness at Oxford

Oxford University was once a primary target of animal rights extremists in the UK. In 2005, activists set fire to student-run university boathouses, at an estimated cost of £500,000. More bombs were placed in 2006 and 2007. The University was also the centre of the grassroots pro-research student movement, Pro-Test, which defended the building of a new, improved, animal research facility. If any university had an excuse to try and hide their animal research, it would be them – thankfully, they’re having none of it.

The “Animal Research” pages are excellent. explaining why animal research is essential for the world-leading medical and scientific work being done by the institution. Oxford provide case studies (with videos and pictures) explaining why they use animals for specific pieces of research, they have details of how animal welfare is monitored and improved, they have details of the regulations, and they provide a great overview which includes common questions about research.

Around half the diseases in the world have no treatment. Understanding how the body works and how diseases progress, and finding cures, vaccines or treatments, can take many years of painstaking work using a wide range of research techniques. There is overwhelming scientific consensus worldwide that some research using animals is still essential for medical progress.

We hope that all institutions become more open about the role of animals in research and why their institution conducts such studies. The more open we are, the better public understanding about animal research is, and the more we show that we have nothing to hide.

So check if your institution has a statement on animal research, and if not – ask them why.

 

 

Let’s show the world what animal research looks like!

Animal rights activists frequently use images of animals which do not offer a fair representation of research. Photos are often from other countries, out of date, or entirely out of context. Consider the primate image below, which can also be found on placards of demonstrators in 1980 (See Animals’ Defender – Jan/Feb 1981, p6).

The primate image on the left is over 30 years old

The primate image on the left is over 30 years old

It is up to scientists to help rebalance this. If you want to see the scale of the problem then I recommend you Google ‘animal testing‘ or even ‘animal research‘ and look at the huge number of unrepresentative images.

A number of Canadian researchers recently helped us take a step in the right direction. They went to their labs and took some photos of animals and provided Speaking of Research with the rights to the picture (see pictures below). We are now sharing these under the Creative Commons By Attribution (CC BY). This means you can use and share the image provided you mention it came from “www.speakingofresearch.com”. By providing these on Creative Commons we can help spread them far and wide. Next time you see a media story about animal research, would you rather see our pictures, or the ones sent by activists?

We need you. We need as many pictures as possible. We need you to provide us with the right to the picture so that we can release them to the world CC free, with an attribution license that will send people back to our website to discover accurate information about animal research.

We need pictures of animals in enclosures, pictures of the refinements in animal housing, pictures of animals undergoing procedures. We need all species, especially the mice, rats, birds and fish than make up around 95% of research subjects.

Pictures should be sent to contact@speakingofresearch.com

Take a photo of your animals and help combat the misrepresentation of animal research. Tweet this!

See some of our existing images below: (Click to enlarge)

You can find all our photos permanently based on our resources page. This is along with our background briefings on animal research and other materials.

Speaking of Research

Top Israeli academics beg Prime Minister to protect animal research

Seven Nobel Laureates and the Presidents of seven major Israeli universities and research institutes are the signatories of an unprecedented letter that calls for to government to refrain to impose any additional limitations on the use of animals in research. A translation of the letter can be found below:

Such limitations, and pressure from activists resulted in the birth of Pro-Test Israel earlier this year. The former Environment Minister, Gilad Ardan, added regulations to prevent the export of primates for biomedical research, claiming that such experiments were immoral. Activist pressure in 2012 had already forced Israel’s largest airline, El Al, to stop transporting primates for research, and they have since refused to carry any animals involved in medical research – to the detriment of patients worldwide.

The letter sent to PM Benjamin Netanyahu

The letter sent to PM Benjamin Netanyahu. A translation can be found below

Nobel Laureates Explain need for animal research

Nobel Laureates from Left to Right: Prof Yonath; Prof Shechtman; Prof Levitt; Prof Hershko; Prof Warshel; Prof Ciechanover

An article by Ariela Ringel Hoffman and published in the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, provided a copy of the letter. It also gathered quotes from the Nobel Laureates who has signed their name. Among notable statements Professor Aaron Ciechanover said “We decided the time has come to tell truth and lay the facts in front of the public.” Professor Arieh Warshel added “The existing limitations are already making it difficult to carry out advanced research.” Professor Avram Hershko noted “I know few professional doctors that oppose such experiments.”

Perhaps most concerning was the comment by Professor Dan Shechtman, who said: “Animal rights organizations forced us to write this letter to the Prime Minister”.

It is definitely worrying when a countries top academics feel the need to publish a letter to the Prime Minister expressing their concerns about the direction of research in their country.

The following is a translation from the original Hebrew letter (pictured above).

To: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The future of the biomedical research in Israel is in danger
We, the undersigned, Presidents of the Israeli universities and Nobel laureates, write to you in an unusual way and out of concern and fear for the future of the scientific research in genera1l, and specifically biomedical research in Israel.

We want to state clearly that we are not asking you for any additional budget. Until today, despite smaller budgets compared with those offered by academic institutes in other countries, the academic research institutes of the state of Israel manage to be at the front line of scientific and biomedical research worldwide.

Research in Israel has lead to significant breakthroughs in the scientific and biomedical knowledge and some of them have led to the development of drugs and treatments for incurable and chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancers, Alzheimer’s, blindness, schizophrenia and many other diseases.

Those treatments and drugs save the lives and improve the quality of life of billions of people and makes Israel’s science renowned across the world.

Lately we see attempts almost every day to block the activity of the Israeli academic research institutes that use animals in their research. These attempts include legislation aimed at blocking such research. This is done by a loud minority which opposes any kind of animal use and now threatens the existence of the scientific and biomedical research in Israel.

The limitations now put in place are already creating difficulties for researchers in Israel to conduct advanced research which is critical for the scientific knowledge that can save the lives of billions of people and improves their life quality. Such limitations can lead to the destruction of many years of research and academic achievement.

Research with animals is carried out in Israel according Israeli’s Animal Welfare (Experiments on Animals) Act, 1994. Research is done only with a specific permit and supervision, and only if no non-animal alternative is viable. Such research is essential to save human lives and that why it must continue.

We would like to warn you that scientific research in Israel is in a real danger. We ask you and your government to prioritize scientific excellence in the national interest and to examine each new legislation which might have direct or indirect effects on research in consultation with the relevant experts in the field, so that we can allow the necessary conditions to allow scientific research in Israel remain at the forefront of the international scientific community.

Signatories:

Prof Aaron Ciechanover – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2004
Prof Ada Yonath – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009
Prof Avram Hershko – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2004
Prof Michael Levitt – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2013
Prof Arieh Warshel – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2013
Prof Dan Shechtman – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2011
Prof Roger Kornberg – Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2006

Prof Menachem Ben-Sasson – President of the Hebrew University of Jersualem
Prof Daniel Zajfman – President of Weitzmann Institute of Science
Prof Peretz Latvie – President of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Prof Joseph Klafter – President of Tel Aviv University
Prof Rivka Carmi – President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Prof Dan Hershkowitz – President of Bar-Ilan University
Amos Shapira – President of the University of Haifa
Prof Jacob Metzer – President of the Open University of Israel

Israel publishes its animal research statistics annually. In 2013, researchers used 299,144 animals of which 86% were mice and rats. 80% of the research is conducted in the universities and research institutions – the majority of which are represented in the letter to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Animals used in research in Israel 2010-13

Speaking of Research

Five Star review for Speaking of Research website

A few months after the Speaking of Research website got full marks in a recent review we’ve done it again. In Lab Animal Europe‘s Website of the Month, Speaking of Research got an overall score of five out of five and was considered ‘Excellent’ for Ease of Use, Content and Visual Impact.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

It concludes:

All, in all, this is an excellent and informative website. [...] We highly recommend it.

A big thanks to Lab Animal Europe for the review and we’ll keep trying to add “more information, more updated news, and, actually, more of everything we loved about this website“.

Speaking of Research

Sometimes My Job Seems Like a Secret

Today’s guest post is by Amy Davidson, BSc(Hons), MBA, RQAP-GLP. Amy is Vice President, Operations at Kingfisher International Inc. She has worked as an animal care attendant, technician, quality assurance auditor and now manages a team of dedicated animal research professionals. Amy explains how talking about her profession has changed and the benefit of sharing accurate information about animal research all that will listen. Reprinted with permission from Kingfisher International.

“You are going to hell.” “You are a horrible person.” “We cannot be friends anymore.”

I have had all of these statements declared to me from strangers and former-friends. I have chosen a career that some people consider inhumane or amoral; my job is controversial and I have lost friends and alienated people based solely on my career choice.

What do I do? I work in an animal research laboratory. Am I ashamed of my job?  No! In fact, heck no!!   All of the individuals I work with are kind, caring people who place animal welfare above all else. I am proud of the scientific work we perform and the care and attention placed on those animals that work with us to attain our goals.

I have been an animal researcher for almost 10 years, and in the beginning I gave families, friends and strangers some vague line using words like ‘laboratory’, ‘science’, and ‘pharmaceuticals’ so that I would not have to explain that I work with animals to further scientific endeavors.  This was a mistake which I have now rectified in the past few years.

Amy Davidson with Cat

I am willing to answer any and all questions about my career to anyone willing to ask, maintaining confidentiality of our Sponsors of course.  Once I started my honesty policy, I actually found most people didn’t have a strong opinion either way.  Trust me, trying to be in the dating pool and tell a guy on the first date what I do for a living was really fun!  I did have one date walk out on me, I had several that asked follow up questions but most just said “Wow you must be smart” and moved on with the conversation.

I will not attempt to change someone’s mind if they are against animal research, but I will correct any misconceptions people may have regarding animal research in the 21st century. I have a responsibility to the animal health community to be an advocate, to tell the truth and represent the innumerable people and animals that comprise the industry.

I am a good person, I care about animals, I care about animal welfare and safety, and I care about products going onto the market that are safe for both animals and humans to use.  I have owned animals all my life (dogs, cats, and fish) and I am against all malicious acts of cruelty to any creature.   I harass my own family about not leaving their dog in the car on a hot day; my cat goes to the veterinarian once a year and I have cried when we have had to euthanize animals at work.  My dad is alive with diabetes today, my mom controls her arthritis and my best friend had a child using fertility aids all because animal researchers like me are continuing to perform quality science.

All I ask is that if you have an opinion about me or my career choice; please make it an informed opinion. I am not out to hurt animals or hurt you, I am trying to ensure the safety and efficacy of products that will make you and your pet feel better. I am not ashamed, I am not hiding, I am going to speak up and be honest, there is nothing to hide, no secret to keep.  I am an animal researcher.

Amy Davidson

Do you have a story to tell? Are you a researcher, technician or veterinarian who wishes to explain how and why you work with animals? Please get in touch.

BUAV – Spies, Lies and Inspection Reports

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) has campaigned against the use of animals in research since 1898. If they had got their way when they started we would likely not have insulin (dogs), blood transfusions (guinea pigs and dogs), penicillin (mice) or asthma inhalers (guinea pigs), among a very long list.

The BUAV has conducted a number of high profile infiltrations into British animal research facilities in the last few years. At least one of these, Imperial College London, triggered investigations by the Home Office’s Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU). Despite hundreds of allegations of mistreatment, the inspection reports have now been published and clears the institution of nearly all of the BUAV’s allegations, save five minor infringements (Category A or B), none of which involved “significant avoidable or unnecessary pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm” (which would make them Category C or D infringements; more information on these classifications can be found on pages 35-36 of the ASRU annual report).

In a previous post, BUAV – Spies, Lies and Videotapes, we looked at the BUAV’s infiltrations of Cambridge University and MSD and explained that neither showed any “unnecessary suffering” of animals. While an ASRU report is not yet available for the Cambridge infiltration (though the video produced to the BUAV fails to corroborate any of their claims, which have also been comprehensively refuted by the University), the ASRU report for Imperial College London (a third infiltration) shows how baseless the BUAV’s allegations really are.

Sheep at Cambridge

Just one of the “shocking” pictures by the BUAV of research at Cambridge.

Imperial College London Infiltration by the BUAV

In April 2013, The Sunday Times covered a BUAV infiltration at Imperial College London (Ranked 2nd in QS World University Ranking 2014). They claimed “staff breached welfare standards by mistreating laboratory animals”, that “[Their] investigation [had] shown the terrible suffering of animals in a supposedly leading UK university”, and that the “reality is … that standards are often poor with numerous breaches of the law“.

The University instantly ordered its own investigation to run concurrently with a Home Office investigation. The Brown Report did not aim to investigate the BUAV allegations (which was the Home Office’s remit), but to “undertake broad and detailed examination of all aspects of animal experimentation at the College facilities,” aimed at improving best practice at the University. The University accepted all 33 recommendations made by the report. In a recent release, Imperial announced:

The College has taken action to improve its culture of care. It has revised its governance structure, improved its ethical review process, strengthened support for operational management and put in place better systems for training and sharing good practice through stronger communications.

Meanwhile, the BUAV had provided ASRU with a 71 page document and accompanying video footage containing over 180 allegations against Imperial relating to the use of animals under the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986 (ASPA). The allegations included (p12) “very large scale appalling animal suffering; unlawful regulations by the Home Office; inadequate care of animals by establishment staff; [and] inadequate enforcement by the Inspectorate“. The ASRU report was damning in its conclusions:

Over 180 individual allegations, made by the animal rights organisation, of non-compliance were investigated. Of these, all were found to be unsubstantiated apart from five formal non-compliance cases which have been completed – one category A and four Category B.

Category B means that while there may have been “some animal welfare implications“, it “[did] not involve significant, avoidable or unnecessary pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm“, there was “no evidence of intent to subvert the controls of ASPA“. Typically a category B non-compliance results in a written reprimand and individuals involved may require additional training.

Furthermore, over 97% of the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated upon investigation by ASRU. The BUAV will have to console itself with being less than 3% honest. However, the BUAV appear to be encouraging unethical behaviour in its infiltrations. The Report noted:

No concerns about animal welfare were recorded as raised by the investigator with the agency.
Similarly, the investigator from the animal rights organisation did not raise concerns through the recognised whistle blowing policy in place at the Establishment

Essentially, the infiltrator saw what she believed was animal cruelty and then refused to mention it when asked by her agency and neglected to mention it to anyone else. Her inaction could have caused animal suffering. Why did she refuse to mention it? Presumably because the BUAV, who she was working for, did not want her to.

The ASRU report found “animal care staff knowledgeable and vigilant”

A similar issue was noted at Cambridge University in their response to the BUAV’s infiltration of their sheep research facility (into Batten’s disease):

The University has robust mechanisms in place for whistleblowing; however, no animal welfare concerns had been raised by any staff during the times noted in the reports,

And the unethical behaviour appeared to go a step further. Cambridge’s response mentioned a section of the BUAV video where a lone sheep appears agitated:

We are careful to avoid causing stress to the Batten’s disease sheep. As their disease develops, they become confused and can become agitated, particularly when approached by unfamiliar people or surroundings. Thus the animal care team is careful not to isolate any sheep from its flock-mates, allow interaction with strangers, or make sudden or unnecessary changes to their routines. It appears that the BUAV infiltrator not only disrupted their routines in the making of the undercover videos, but also isolated the animals. This will have made the sheep appear more agitated than they are when under routine care.

Given the BUAV’s goals of ending all animal research, perhaps we should not be surprised at their tactics – indeed their levels of donations are heavily influenced by how much press coverage they get; itself determined by the shock-factor of the story.

ASRU Strike Again

A second ASRU report also came out, investigating a BUAV infiltration at a pharmaceutical company. The allegations by the BUAV were based on “material and video material covertly gathered by an investigator working as a junior animal technician”.

The Report of the ASRU Investigation into compliance found that:

No non-compliance with authorised programmes of work was detected apart from two minor issues with no welfare implications.

The two minor issues (both Category A infringements; least concern) were both described as “technical non-compliance” and were essentially paperwork issues.

When considering the allegations levelled at the pharmaceutical by the BUAV, the report is even clearer:

Our detailed investigations and review of available records and other evidence, does not support the allegations in the investigation report.
Our findings confirm that the site is well managed with staff at all levels committed to the provision of appropriate standards of welfare and care, within the constraints of the scientific requirements of the research.

The BUAV

Of the £1.3 million that BUAV spent in 2013 (and almost £2 million in 2012), around £200,000 was spent on “Investigations”. Any curious journalist should be asking the BUAV whether they were paying these infiltrators, how much these payments were, and what they expected (video wise) from their employees.

Infiltration BudgetTo remind people of what we have said before. These are not casual whistle blowers, but people who are working at animal research facilities with the express intention of creating horrifying videotapes. There are few endeavours in the world that you could not create a shocking videotape about by filming staff and premises for hundreds of hours and cleverly editing it down to a 5 minute video.

One has to wonder how many BUAV infiltrators are in labs around the UK. Moreover, one wonders, how many BUAV infiltration videos were never publicised due to the lack of shocking footage (even after clever editing)? Be it a school, a hospital, a factory or a restaurant, there are few businesses for which you could not create a cleverly edited 5 minute shock video having secretly filmed for hundreds of hours. So we challenge the BUAV:

To the BUAV we ask you for the openness and transparency you accuse the research community of lacking. Show us the rest of the footage. Show us the hours and hours of footage that never made it onto your final mix tapes.

Will we find hours of shocking footage? Or will we find hours and hours of individuals working hard, caring for animals, and conducting research in a manner which provided high standards of animal welfare. It’s for you to prove.

Speaking of Research

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