Category Archives: Outreach News

Animal Experiments in the UK: Government releases 2013 statistics

Every year the UK Home Office publishes statistics showing the number of procedures carried out on animals covered by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986; this covers all vertebrate species. Overall, the number of animals used in research fell slightly from 4.03 to 4.01 million (0.4% fall). The total number of procedures was slightly higher, at 4.12 million, as some animals were used for more than one procedure (a 0.3% rise from 2012).

animal testing statistics uk 2013

Overall, 98% of animals used in scientific experiments were mice, rats, birds or fish, while dogs, cats and primates (which are offered special protections under UK law) combined, remain under 0.2% of the total.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The number of non-human primates rose 11% from the previous year, however a sharp decline in 2011 means primate use remains lower than for any year prior to 2011. Note that the graph above uses procedures, not numbers of primates (as they were easier to collate). In 2013 the number of primates used was 2,202, up slightly from 2,186 the year before.

A ban on cosmetic testing on animals (1998) and of using great apes (gorillas, orang-utans and chimpanzees) in research (1986) meant both had 0 procedures in 2013. Similarly, efforts to phase out tests on household products meant that no animals were used for this purpose for the third year running.

Animal rights groups have worked hard to find things to be upset about in the stats. Michelle Thew of the BUAV was quoted in the BBC saying:

“The government has now failed for a third year on its 2010 post-election pledge to work to reduce the number of animals used in research.”

Which is a curious way of describing a small drop in the number of animals used. The BUAV could also be found to be cherry picking the statistics on Twitter. In a set of tweeted pictures they spoke of the 7% rise in primate procedures (whereas numbers of primates rose only 1%), then switched to describing an 11% rise in the number of dogs used, neglecting to mention that procedures on dogs had fallen 1.3%.

For more statistics, check our UK stats page (now updated)

Speaking of Research

Find more on the stats here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statistics-of-scientific-procedures-on-living-animals-great-britain-2013

How you can support understanding of animal research in thirty seconds

In February 2013 we wrote a post called “The Science of Linking”, which looked at how other organisations’ website linking to pages like Speaking of Research could have an impact on its ranking in Google searches.

The efforts of our followers paid up, with Speaking of Research’s PageRank (a key factor in Google search result order) rising from 6 to 7. This puts us equal to HSUS, and above both PETA (who dropped from 7 to 6 last year) and PCRM.

This video may help explain how some of these factors, including PageRank, influence search results.

Despite early success, we can continue to improve. Ideally, we need to be a first page search result for terms such as “animal research” and “animal testing”, and you can help us do that. Google considers links from .edu and .gov websites to be of greater value than those from less established websites (thus why SR outranks PETA despite having far few incoming links). So what could you do in thirty seconds?

We need you to send an email to your department website editor (and convince friends in other life science departments to do likewise) to ask them to add links to pro-research organisations on an appropriate page. Many of you will have direct control over sections of your department’s page, so please take a few seconds to add the middle section of the letter below.

Dear Webmaster

Please can you add the following paragraph to our departmental website, on our page about animal research here: <insert url>

For more information about the role of animals in research we recommend the following resources:
http://www.speakingofresearch.com – Speaking of Research
http://www.amprogress.org – Americans for Medical Progress
http://www.fbresearch.org – Foundation for Biomedical Research
http://www.animalresearch.info – Animal Research Information

Kind Regards

<insert name>

You may also wish to link to specific resources, for example our briefing notes on animal research in the US or Canada:

So you’re now twenty-five seconds down and still have a spare 5 seconds to help research just a little bit more. Well, at the bottom of this post, like every post there is a box that looks like this:

sharing speaking of research

This one comes from our successful post about misused pictures of cats

So please share this post, and others on this website, on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, WordPress, Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon and tumblr. Your efforts can make all the difference in our efforts to improve and widen our communication about animals in research.

Speaking of Research

Addendum:

We’d like to thank all of the organizations which do link to Speaking of Research. To name a few of them, The Wake Forest School of Medicine, The University of British Colombia and The Californian National Primate Research Centre at UC Davis.

 

“Animal Rights …Or Wrongs?” – July 1, 2014

Next Tuesday, July 1st. at 8:00pm ET, Nickelodeon’s “Nick News with Linda Ellerbee” will air a program titled “Animal Rights…Or Wrongs?” It promises to be a balanced look at both sides of the use of animals in research. “Nick News” has been on the air for 22 years and is recognized for discussing social, political, and economic issues important to children, teenagers, and adults.

On the “pro” side of the discussion will be Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, Director for the Center for Comparative Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and AALAS Vice President. Dr. Buckmaster has been a longtime advocate for the responsible use of animals in research and has frequently spoken about the need for those in laboratory animal science community to speak out about what we do and why we do it. She has frequently given her talk, “Stop Hiding…and Change the World” at various meetings and conferences. In addition to Dr. Buckmaster, “Nick News” will be presenting the story of Liviya Anderson  whose life was saved by animal research when she developed aplastic anemia.

animal rights or wrongs

On the “con” side will be Dr. Aysha Akhtar, a board certified neurologist currently working for the Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats with the FDA and is a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics (unaffiliated with Oxford University). She is also a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post arguing against the use of animals in research. Dr. Akhtar has been covered by Speaking of Research in the past here and here. At this time there is no further information available regarding who else may be a part of the “con” side.

“Nick News” states its aim is to explore both sides of the story. They will talk to children who have opinions on both sides from those actively working to end all animal research to those like Liviya who are alive today because of it.

In addition to the interviews with experts and children, Baylor College of Medicine allowed the “Nick News” crew to film animal in the vivarium including an experiment with a mouse model for Alzheimer’s disease performing a memory task in the lab.

Assuming that this segment will indeed be an unbiased look at both sides of the story, it will be interesting to see how children respond to the same tough question we all grapple with routinely: If we stop using animal models in research, then what?

We hope this program indeed provides an unbiased look at the issues surrounding the use of animals in research. It’s one thing to argue in the abstract about what, in a perfect world, should or shouldn’t happen. It’s another thing altogether to look a patient like Liviya, or any number of others suffering from debilitating diseases, and essentially say they aren’t worth saving. Although those participating in the program will not likely come face-to-face with real patients or their families in this segment, hopefully those watching will see there are potentially real consequences for real people should animal research be discontinued. Additionally we hope the program doesn’t allow any misrepresentations of the science to go unchallenged or the use of images which don’t accurately represent current research.

How Can Charities Discuss Animal Research: A Guide

The Association of Medical Research Charities and Understanding Animal Research in the UK have recently jointly produced a booklet aimed at helping charities discuss the animal research they carry out or fund. So what is the guide about?

This guide is designed to help medical research charities answer the questions from the public about the use of animals in research.
[...]
People may have specific questions about research using animals: how and why the research is funded; what charities are doing to find alternatives; what conditions animals are kept in; how this research is regulated; what it helps us find out. This guide suggests some ways that charities can answer these questions and where they can direct people who want to find out more.

Broadly, the guide covers three main areas. It does this by taking examples of best practice from UK medical research charities to illustrate its key points.

  • Being Prepared – what charities should do in advance to help them provide the public with the information they need. This includes writing a position statement on animal research, having case studies ready and establishing a process and protocol for responding to enquiries.
  • Answering Questions – how charities can best respond to individuals asking questions by email, phone and social media. It also covers responding to negative publicity in newspapers and how to deal with campaigns and protests.
  • Opportunities to tell people more – how charities can proactively provide more information about their work such as on their website and in press releases.

The case studies throughout include example letters and position statements from charities, and bits of advice from charities who have been effectively communicating their animal work. See such a case study below:

Cancer Research UK Case Study

So why is such as guide needed? While many charities have done good work explaining their animal research, many could benefit from the extra guidance.

US medical research charities (who the guide was not aimed at, but can still benefit from) are far behind their British counterparts in discussing their animal research. By going to five of the largest US and UK medical research charities’ websites and using the search bar to look for “animal testing” and “animal research”, there was a clear and stark difference between the two countries as to the existence of a clear statement on animal research.

Charities Statements

The links at the bottom are for the UK Charities’ statements on animal research

For any charity wanting to do more to explain the important research it does, I defiitely suggest downloading and reading the aforementioned AMRC-UAR guide to “Talking to the public about animal research“.

Tom

 

The Concordat on Openness on Animal Research Arrives

Seventy-two organizations  have signed the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, committing to improving their communication surrounding the animal research they (or their members) conduct or fund. Signatories undertaken to fulfil the Concordat’s four commitments:

  1. We will be clear about when, how and why we use animals in research

  2. We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research using animals

  3. We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals

  4. We will report on progress annually and share our experiences

Read the full Concordat.

The signatories include universities (e.g. Oxford and Cambridge), charities (e.g. Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation), Pharmaceuticals (e.g.. Pfizer and AstraZeneca), Learned societies (e.g. The Royal Society and The Physiological Society) and major funding bodies (e.g. The Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council).

Concordat on Openness Declaration on Openness

Signatories to the Concordat on Openness

It is important to realise that this openness is not new. Many of the signatories have been active in explaining the animal research they do. In January this year the University of Oxford invited the BBC to film inside its primate facility. Last year, Alzheimer’s Research UK produced both an informative animal research leaflet and a fantastic website showing its dementia lab, including discussion of animals used. These are just a few examples.

Dominic Wells. who studies neuromuscular diseases at the Royal Veterinary College (a signatory), told Nature that the Concordat probably makes the United Kingdom “the most open place in the world” regarding animal research. Adding, “I do feel we’re leading the way on this.”

The story of the Concordat started in 2012 when Ipsos-Mori polls showed that 40% of the British public would like more information about animal research. This led to the Declaration on Openness in Animal Research in which forty organizations agreed to develop a Concordat to set out how they should provide more information about their research programmes. This Concordat has now been realised, with many extra organizations signing their commitment to it.

Speaking about the Concordat, Wendy Jarrett, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research and Chair of the Working Group, said:

For many years, the only ‘information’ or images that the public could access about animal research were provided by organisations opposed to the use of animals in scientific progress. This is why many people still think that animal research means testing cosmetics and tobacco, despite the fact that these have been banned in the UK for more than 15 years. The Concordat is an excellent opportunity to dispel these myths and give the public a chance to see the ground-breaking research that is being done on its behalf.

The responses by animal rights groups in The Guardian have been fairly muted. The BUAV condemned the Concordat, saying: “Informed public debate is essential but it cannot happen without meaningful information being available. … What they should not do is tell the public that this is the same thing as genuine transparency. The concordat approach is simply transparency on their terms“. The hypocrisy of their statement is clear when you remember that in 2010 the BUAV called fora change in the law to allow people to find out what is happening to animals and why“.

Why is a group that purports to want greater openness criticising a commitment by research institutions to do just that? Could it be that as the research community puts out more and more information about when, how and why they do animal research, the less space there is for groups like the BUAV to fill the shrinking void with their misinformation and pseudoscience.

Speaking of Research support the aims of greater openness in animal research and so applaud the efforts being made in the UK to improve communication between the research community and the public. We look forward to seeing how institutions will be moving forward with their commitments.

Speaking of Research

To learn more about the role of animal research in advancing human and veterinary medicine, and the threat posed to this progress by the animal rights lobby, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Speaking on Reddit

Reddit is a website dedicated to curating links on different topics. If you can imagine it, there is a probably a /subreddit/ (Reddit category) about it – everything from /WorldNews/ to /PicturesofIanSleeping/ (which is a mix of bizarre and outright creepy). Links are then voted up or down by the readers to help others work out what is worth reading, and what isn’t.

Reddit is also a remarkably good place to find interesting science – including about animal research. So here are my top 5 Reddits:

/Science/ (5.4 million subscribers)

A thread for interesting peer-reviewed research (either the journal articles, or news summaries of the research). There is plenty of stories of animal research discoveries every day. They also do regular AMAs (Ask Me Anything) with scientists. Most recently Prof Peggy Mason, who does research into empathy in rats, conducted an hour long AMA where she answered questions (among many others) on rats’ ability to identify each other, and the existence of psychopathic rats.

/AnimalResearch/ (94 subscribers)

A very new subreddit dedicated to discussing recent animal research. It also posts a weekly image entitled “This Week in Animal Research” (see below), looking at some of the biggest breakthroughs of the week made possible thanks to animal research.

The Week in Animal Research

/AskScience/ (2.4 million subscribers)

A place for people to ask their scientific questions to a group of scientifically minded peers. Questions cover all manner of scientific interest, though animal research comes up semi-regularly such as this question on “what really happens” in animal testing facilities.

/EverythingScience/ (12,000 subscribers)

Created to fill a gap in /Science/ for science stories that are not directly based on peer-review research (most science news stories, sadly). It also includes more videos and images about science.

/IAmA/ (5.3 million subscribers)

IAmA is a subreddit for people with something uncommon about them (their job, hobby, achievements etc) to be asked questions. It contains a mix of scientists, sportsmen, and others as well as the occasional big-name celebrity (e.g. IAmA from President Obama, Richard Attenborough and Tim Berners-Lee [For any NBC anchors - he's the guy that invented the internet]). IAmAs typically last one hour or so.

Time to get involved. The discussion on animal research is happening across the internet, and Reddit is one of the bigger communities. So it’s time for you to join in. Somewhere there will be a subreddit for you.  Though it’s probably not this one.

To learn more about the role of animal research in advancing human and veterinary medicine, and the threat posed to this progress by the animal rights lobby, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Voice Your Support for Animal Transport

Quick Summary. FBR have a petition to support Air France who continue to be one of the few airlines willing to transport primates for research. Please support them by signing the petition.

For several years animal rights activists have targeted the airlines which transport animals for medical, veterinary and scientific research. They have had a lot of success, with few companies willing to transport animals. In the words of Nature:

The pressures on primate researchers have taken many forms. In the United States, for example, commercial airlines have effectively ceased all primate shipments by air within the country, making it difficult for researchers to transport animals. Many airlines in Europe have taken similar steps, but Air France continues to provide service.

In March, China Southern Airlines announced it would cease transporting primates. This leaves Air France as one of the few international airlines that continue to transport animals.

Air France have a strong statement to this effect:

Air France Cargo ensures that all biomedical research involving the use of animals in laboratories with which the airline works is fully in line with current legislation and the regulations drawn up by scientific organizations specializing in animal welfare:
[...]
Air France Cargo refuses transportation if the testing protocols do not conform to these regulations and visits all customers to make sure this is the case. Air France Cargo also monitors the supplier, who must comply with the breeding rules in force.
[...]
The European Directive 86/609 from 8 September 2010 states that “the use of live animals remains necessary to protect human and animal health and the environment.” In particular, “the use of nonhuman primates in scientific procedures is necessary for biomedical research”.

Nonetheless, the Airline continue to suffer protests and illegal activity from animal rights activists.The Biteback website, which details illegal activities by the ALF, mentions several offices vandalised in March 2014 and December 2013.

Attack on Air France Offices, December 2013

Attack on Air France Offices, December 2013

The Foundation for Biomedical Research has produced a petition to support Air France. The petition reads as follows.

I am signing this petition to commend Air France for its valiant commitment to transporting laboratory animals for biomedical research. While many airlines have acquiesced to animal rights groups’ demands to end the shipment of lab animals, Air France has remained steadfast in its support of the scientific community.

Scientific and medical research with animal models is essential for the discovery of cures, treatments and therapies for diseases affecting both people and animals. While the majority of this research is conducted with rodents that are bred specifically for research, other animal models are essential to study specific diseases because of their biological and physiological makeup.

Because of the genetic similarities they share with people, nonhuman primates play an invaluable role in the study of devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV/AIDS and malaria, which affects 26 million, 7.4 million, 34 million and 216 million people respectively worldwide. In the study of these four diseases alone, 283 million people’s lives depend on the lifesaving research that scientists are currently conducting with the help of nonhuman primates.

Ending the commercial shipment of nonhuman primates will stall vital biomedical research projects that are currently underway and increase costs for scientists and institutions that are conducting this time-sensitive research.  Funds that could be invested in lifesaving research projects will be diverted to charter private flights for these animals.

Safe, reliable air transportation is an essential element of medical and scientific advancements across the globe. When research animals are not available to research centers, R&D projects are suspended or discontinued, leading to significant delays in the development of new treatments to improve human health.

I am most grateful that Air France has stood firm in its commitment to continue the shipment of lab animals and for standing with the biomedical research community in the fight against disease. Thank you for standing up for research and saving human and animal lives.

FBR note that due to the high traffic of the petition, some people are receiving error messages, but they should be assured that their responses have been received.

So please sign the petition today and show your support for Air France as they bravely stand against animal rights extremism.

Speaking of Research

To learn more about the role of animal research in advancing human and veterinary medicine, and the threat posed to this progress by the animal rights lobby, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.