Category Archives: Outreach News

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.

STEM Fair: Why Talking to Children about Research is Important

On March 21st, the Park Forest Middle School in State College, PA held its annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fair.  Approximately 500 students in the 6th through 8th grades participated.  As part of this program, the Animal Resource Program at Penn State University set up a table to talk about the use of animal models in research.  The AALAS Foundation generously provided many outreach materials such as puzzles, hand-outs, and CD’s.   The stall also displayed a variety of environmental enrichment items for various species from mice to primates.

This is the third year the Animal Resources Program have participated in the STEM Fair and besides the environmental enrichment items they also have a game developed by Americans for Medical Progress (AMP).  The Research Trivia Game consists of a game board and various trivia questions.  These can be found on the AALAS Foundation website.  Groups of children are given a statement about a type of research animal whose picture is on the game board.  Those that get the answer right win a prize.  This year winners received a stuffed animal generously supplied by Carter 2 Systems, Inc. and Charles River. Additionally, there were goodies from Bio-Serv, the AALAS Foundation, and other vendors associated with animal research.  The fact that the prizes ran out and someone had to make a mad dash to the local super market to buy some candy to hand out suggests the table was popular.

Trivia game Americans for Medical Progress

Excerpt from the Trivia Game: Would you have got the answer?

The Park Forest Middle School has student representing a diverse background and with that their perceptions on the use of animals in research and in general.  Many are the children of the farmers in the surrounding area.  These students tend to have seen the direct benefits of animal research in the form of antibiotics for their livestock, better formulated feed, and general veterinary care.  There are also students whose parents work Penn State University or in business around the university.  These students have a mixed impression of animal research.  Many students who visited the booth, while not necessarily opposed to biomedical research using animal models, were not aware of all that is done regarding animal welfare.  They were surprised at the number of different enrichment devices used to allow the animals to exhibit normal behaviors.  For example, providing nesting materials for mice or foraging boards for primates.  The students also seemed to enjoy learning about the how different animals have been used to advance our knowledge or find cures for diseases.  While most of the students professed to “liking” animals, there were none that suggested they were opposed to animal research.

Stem Fair

It’s vitally important that we in the scientific research community participate in these types of outreach opportunities.  PETA has long targeted children from grade school through high school.  It’s imperative that we continue and build presenting the truth about the work we do to this age group. This is when they begin forming their ideas about not only what types of jobs they’d like to have, but how they view issues.  If all they hear is the animal rights side of things, then we’ve lost a key moment to present the truth.  It’s also important because we need to reach out to the next generation of researchers, animal caretakers, those that will work for the various vendors, and veterinary staff.  Many students who visited the booth talked to had no idea that this type of work existed.  We need caring and compassionate people to continue the work of the research community.  Those who visited the booth were shown a Whyville page that has various games related to animal research geared towards middle school kids.  The AALAS Foundation has also recently launched the CARE website that has information about working in the field and links to pages such as the 4Research page.

Kids are genuinely interested in the type of work the research community does do, and it’s important that we get out and talk about it to them.  Besides providing good and interesting information to the kids, it’s a lot of fun!

David Bienus

For more information on outreach initiatives read:

http://speakingofresearch.com/2012/05/22/animal-research-in-the-public-eye/
http://speakingofresearch.com/2012/10/04/part-7-many-voices-speaking-of-research-americans-for-medical-progress/
http://speakingofresearch.com/2012/10/04/part-7-many-voices-speaking-of-research-americans-for-medical-progress/

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.

Background Briefing on Animal Research in Canada

In February we announced the publication of our US Background Briefing on animal research. Today we are publishing our Canadian counterpart briefing. We hope this will offer journalists, editors and broadcasters who may need to discuss this issue, a handy overview of the facts. Our two-page summary provides key information including the number of animals used for research purposes, the laws and regulations surrounding animal research, and some key questions people have.

Download the Background Briefing on Animal Research in Canada

As with our previous briefing, we encourage those working in universities, pharmaceuticals, and other research institutions, to help share this document when contacting or responding to journalists about research stories relating to their institution. By attaching this background briefing to proactive stories, or reactive statements, it can help ensure that your research is understood within the context of the wider research environment.

Animal Research Canada

We permit anyone to redistribute this briefing providing it remain unchanged, and in whole, with credit to Speaking of Research.

We would like to produce more of these for different countries in the future, to add to our American and Canadian briefings. Those wishing to see a similar briefing for the UK should consult the Science Media Centre’s “Briefing Notes on the Use of Animals in Research”. We thank the Science Media Centre for offering their support in producing our briefings.

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.

SYR: Why I Became a Biologist

The Speaking of Your Research (SYR) series gives scientists a voice to discuss their own research. We welcome posts by animal researchers explaining the science and motives behind what they do. Contact us for more details.

I am a biologist. At heart, I have been a biologist ever since I can remember. Life, in its many forms, fascinates me and, even though my interests aren’t confined to biology (or sciences, for that matter), it was always very clear to me that I would pursue the task of trying to understand life a little bit better.

As a kid, my most vivid memories go back to those Saturday mornings when I use to wake up at 7 a.m. to turn on the TV. First, there were cartoons to watch, but – at around 10 a.m. – the “Wildlife” shows would start: documentaries from the BBC Wildlife or from the National Geographic Channel. David Attenborough’s or Jacques Cousteau’s voices were my companions, as I flew above mountains or dived into the depths of the oceans, watching the most bizarre animals or the most fascinating flowers. There was a whole diversity of life around me that I was relentlessly drawn to. In my mind, I had this naïve idea that I wanted to be the next David Attenborough. I felt like it must be great just to grab a camera and follow animals around just to catch that perfect moment! But life got in the way… Not because I didn’t have opportunities to follow my dreams, but because the dream itself changed.

When I was eleven, one of my cousins checked into the hospital, quite suddenly, with what would later be diagnosed with measles encephalitis. During the early stages, I wasn’t completely aware of what was happening. Indeed, not even the doctors knew what was happening. When he was finally diagnosed, it was already too late for the interferon treatment. After years struggling with the disease, he fell into a coma and eventually could no longer struggle. Looking back, my change of field of interest started there. Suddenly, I started thinking about diseases, about what causes them and how incredibly little we know about it all. I started looking at microorganisms in a whole different way: I started realising I wanted to know more about what makes them tick and how to stop that ticking. So, by the 7th grade, I already had my mind settled on Biology.

The path since there has been one of seizing opportunities: I finished college (Biology with a minor in Evolution and Development) and I went on to take my MSc in Applied Microbiology. By the beginning of the second semester, I saw an ad for a trainee position studying the neurological sequelae of cerebral malaria. For me, it couldn’t get more interesting than that!

When I joined the lab, the first thing I had to do was read. Among all those articles, the first thing that struck me (having little knowledge of this before) was the numbers: according to the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2013, there are around 200 million new cases of malaria and around 700 000 deaths per year, the majority of which (around 500 000) are children under the age of 5 years. I was shocked by these figures and, most importantly, by the ones related to the funding of anti-malarial research and preventive measures. And even though these numbers are finally starting to rise, they are still very much below what would be desirable.

Mosquitos Malaria animal research

Anopheles stephensi is the most commonly used mosquito vector for Plasmodium (the malaria parasite) in research labs

And so it was that, at 21 years of age, I did my first in vivo experiment, using rodent models of malaria. The moral challenge wasn’t easy and the decision wasn’t taken lightly. But, while I regard all living things as worthy of respect, I cannot disregard the good that comes from the use of animal models. I had to look at the ugly effects of what malaria does to people and especially to children. And I had to look at them in mice; in the mice I was handling, observing and taking care of every day. I had to look at all that and still make a decision. It is emotionally hard, but I truly think that using animal models is the only way we have of really studying this disease (and so many others!). The ethical decision that I make every day has become less difficult to make when I see it as the best chance we have of saving the lives at stake here: the millions infected every year, by a disease Jeffrey Sachs described as a disease of “poverty”.

The lesson I was taught on my very first day was: “the first thing to keep in mind is the animal’s distress. If it is distressed, not only will it be bad for the animal but it will also be bad for you, because your experiment will be jeopardized”. Four years have gone by, and I have passed it on to the students I’ve trained as well, because I truly believe this should be the golden-rule for everyone doing this work!

From cerebral malaria I moved on to other fields of research, screening compound libraries for new anti-malarials, and integrating the search for an anti-malarial vaccine. Now, the goal is there all the time, in front of my eyes! But I can only do what I do, because others before me have studied the biological processes I want to tackle. And they have done so using animal models.

Inês S. Albuquerque, MSc

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.

Pictures in need of accurate words: University of Florida animal photos

Pictures of a cat spay clinic misrepresented as a laboratory horror shop circulated the internet recently to support appeals to “end animal testing.” Speaking of Research wrote about it here “Fact into fiction: Why context matters with animal images,” noting the importance of understanding the facts and context for photographs.

This picture was used to misrepresent animal research

This picture was used to misrepresent animal research

In the cat spay clinic case, the photos were from a newspaper article. We have written previously about images of laboratory animals that have made their way to the internet via leaks, undercover operations, and open records release. In all cases, several points remain true. Images are powerful. Providing accurate information about the images is important. It is also true that there are important differences between the sources and ways that images are obtained. Those obtained via infiltrations and undercover operations may be from manipulated situations, or  small fractions of hours of recording, in both cases providing a deliberately misrepresentative view. Photos obtained from institutions via open records release can also be used to misrepresent laboratory animals’ care and treatment and can be the centerpiece in “shock” campaigns. Their value is obvious from even a quick survey of high profile attacks on research, as we’ve written about previously (here, here, here). As in the case of the spay clinic images, conflating veterinary and clinical care with scientific research is also common and further serves to confuse the issues.

Can the laboratory animal research community do a better job of providing context for images of animals?  Yes.

Knowing what the images show and why matters, particularly to people who would like to engage in serious and thoughtful consideration to inform their point of view and judgments. In absence of context and facts, the audience is left without key knowledge and an opportunity to educate is missed. Yet all too often the opportunity is missed and the images remain in public view without comment or context from those who could provide a better understanding of what the photographs show.

In reviewing laboratory animal photographs that appear on animal rights sites, it is obvious that there are generally two types: those from activities directly related to the scientific project and those related to veterinary care or housing and husbandry. In terms of providing context and information, the two differ with respect to their source and which personnel may best explain the content of the photographs.

What does the image depictSome images may be of actual scientific research activities. These may be of animals engaging in an activity directly related to the science question under study. For example, the images may illustrate how animals perform a cognitive or memory task, how they navigate a maze, or how a particular measurement is obtained. The Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics website provides an example of this, with description and photographs of rhesus monkeys and cognitive neuroscience research. Another type of image directly related to the scientific project may be of a surgery or procedure. An example of this is found in pictures of a surgery involved in cat sound localization research (photos here, video here). In each case, it is not particularly challenging to provide additional information and context because the activities are typically also explained in the protocols, grants, and scientific papers about the study.

Images of clinical veterinary care, husbandry, and housing appear frequently in activist campaigns and public view. For example, pictures of routine physical examinations, health tests, unexpected injuries unrelated to scientific procedures, or photos of animals in their normal housing, have all appeared via various sources. Many times– perhaps more often than not– the activity depicted in the images would not be obvious to a lay audience because it remains unexplained.

A common image – tuberculosis skin test

One of the best examples of misunderstood images is found in pictures of an anesthetized macaque monkey with a needle injecting something in its eyelid. The picture circulates the internet with various captions opposing “animal testing.”   What does this picture show?

tb imageIt is a skin test, commonly used in human and nonhuman primates, for early detection of tuberculosis. A small amount of tuberculin (non-harmful) is injected just under the skin. In almost all cases, the primate does not have tuberculosis and the skin remains normal. If the primate—human or not—does have a reaction to the test, indicated by redness and some swelling, it provides evidence of possible tuberculosis infection. That person, or monkey, then receives additional testing and preventive measures for treatment and to avoid infecting and harming others.

Tuberculosis testing is routinely performed as a health procedure in humans who work in hospitals, schools, with children and with others who may be vulnerable. In settings where nonhuman primates are housed, tuberculosis testing is often routinely performed with all human personnel and with the other animals. Why? Because tuberculosis is a rare disease, but one that can be a threat to the animals’ health and thus, precautions are necessary to ensure their health. The difference between human and monkey tb testing is that for humans, the injection is given without pain relief or anesthesia, via a needle inserted into the forearm.

Aside from the momentary discomfort of the injection, the test is painless and without irritating after-effects. In monkeys, the injection is typically given while the animal is anesthetized and is placed just under the skin of the upper eyelid. Why the difference? It is a simple reason—the key to the test is looking for redness or slight swelling. In monkeys, the forearm is fur-covered and it would be very difficult to detect a reaction in an unobtrusive way.

University of Florida monkey pictures

Not surprisingly, the monkey tb test photo is one that seems to appear in an ongoing campaign against the University of Florida. In response to several years of attacks on their animal research programs, public universities in Florida are pursuing new action to shield personal information about their personnel from public disclosure.   We’ve written previously about an ongoing campaign of violent threats, harassment, and protest by local activists (here, here, here).

In parallel to other campaigns, photographs are a centerpiece of the current attacks on animal research. As reported by Beatrice Dupuy in the Independent Alligator:

“Disturbing pictures of primates being examined by researchers are featured on the organization’s website along with posters with quotes like “stop the holocaust inside UF, free the monkeys.” After a three year lawsuit, the organization, formerly named Negotiation is Over, obtained UF’s public veterinary records last April. The researchers named in public records were the first ones to be targeted by animal rights activists, said Janine Sikes, a UF spokeswoman.”

What are these “disturbing pictures of primates being examined by researchers”?

The photographs <warning: link to AR site> are of macaque monkeys that appear to be receiving routine veterinary care or are simply in fairly standard housing. While the activists claim these photos are evidence of maltreatment at the hands of researchers, they likely are mostly of routine veterinary procedures. For example, two appear to be of an anesthetized macaque monkey receiving a tattoo, another two of an anesthetized monkey receiving a tuberculosis test, while others show the reddened skin that rhesus macaques exhibit normally in the wild and captivity. One photo depicts what looks like a stillborn infant macaque. Without context or confirmation, it isn’t surprising that the photographs can be interpreted in many ways.

UF’s spokesperson says: “The university wants to be very open and honest about its research,” … “It wants to stop these personal attacks against our researchers.”

One place to begin is to provide straightforward and accurate context for the images of laboratory animals that have been released. While those with experience in laboratory care of nonhuman primates can view the images and be reasonably certain that they are mostly of clinical veterinary care, it is only the UF veterinary, animal care program, and scientific personnel that can provide accurate information. Other universities have done exactly that when faced with the same situation. In “An Open Letter to the Laboratory Animal Veterinary Community and Research Institution Administration”   we wrote:

“While scientists can address questions about the scientific side of animal research, we need the laboratory animal care and veterinary staff to provide their expertise in service of addressing public questions about clinical care and husbandry.  If they do not, it will be no surprise if the public view of animal research is disproportionately colored by the relatively rare adverse events and the misrepresentations of animal rights activists. Many believe that it is possible—and perhaps acceptable—to ignore this part of reality in order to focus on more immediate demands for time, energy, and resources. Consider, however, that a fundamental part of the AWA, accreditation, regulation, and professional obligation is actually to ensure communication with the public that supports animal research.  Thus, it is our entire community who share a primary obligation to engage in the dialogue that surrounds us.”

We have consistently condemned the extremists who have targeted UF scientists and others with outrageous harassment. Tactics designed to elicit fear and terror do not have a place in democratic society and do nothing to promote fair and civil dialogue about complex issues.

At the same time, we believe and have written often, that the scientific and laboratory animal community, including scientists, veterinarians, and institutional officials should consider that better education and explanation are key to building public dialogue and understanding of research. Furthermore, as highlighted in this case and others, releasing photographs, records, and other materials without providing context serves no one well. Providing straightforward explanation of the veterinary practices, housing, husbandry, and care of laboratory animals not only gives context to photographs, but also should not be that hard to do.

Allyson J. Bennett

More information and resources:

Raising the bar: What makes an effective public response in the face of animal rights campaigns:  http://speakingofresearch.com/2013/02/20/raising-the-bar-what-makes-an-effective-public-response-in-the-face-of-animal-rights-campaigns/

Time for a change in strategies? http://speakingofresearch.com/2013/06/24/time-for-a-change/

A detailed response to a PETA video accusing a primate lab of mistreatment:  http://speakingofresearch.com/2008/07/04/peta-out-with-the-new-in-with-the-old/

Speaking of Research media briefing (pdf):  Background Briefing on Animal Research in the US

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.

SR Outreach at OAVT Conference

Last month Speaking of Research (SR) committee member Michael Brunt took part in an outreach lecture at the annual Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT) 2014 conference. The OAVT is the largest association for veterinary technicians in Canada. Over the past several years there has been a growing interest in offering lectures specifically directed towards those working in laboratory animal science (LAS). In concert with the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science (CALAS) the 2014 conference offered a full one day track discussing LAS.

Ontario Association for Veterinary Technicians 2014Michael presented a joint lecture from SR and the CALAS InReach for OutReach program titled “10 Myths Surrounding Laboratory Animal Science.” The purpose of the lecture was to provide accurate information about the importance of animal based research and testing in medical and veterinary science. The lecture explored ten myths and provided context which spurred discussion from the 25 delegates in attendance. Many of the myths discussed can be found on our “Animal Rights BINGO” post. There was even a last minute addition to the lecture of a bonus myth discussing “Why Context Matters with Animal Images”.

Being presented with accurate information allows people to make informed opinions regarding LAS. Outreach to our professional communities will continue to foster a culture of understanding, acceptance, value and recognition for the contributions LAS plays in improving the lives of millions of animals and people every day.

Many members of SR are involved in outreach. Please contact us if you are interested in having someone speak at your institution or conference,

Sincerely,

Michael Brunt

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.

The British Government sets out a positive future for animal research

Report CoalitionToday, the British Government set out its pledges on the future of animal research under the current Coalition Government. A joint paper put out by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the Department for Health, and the Home Office entitled “Working to reduce the use of animals in scientific research” laid out the future for animal research in Britain. This document should allay the fears by some scientists that the previous appointment of Norman Baker MP (a critic of animal research) as minister responsible for animal experiments, might prove disastrous for the research community.

The UK Government remains clear about the importance of continued medical research involving animals:

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. Such use 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. Hence, enabling properly regulated use of animals is essential to improving the health and lives of humans and animals and to the safety and sustainability of our environment.

Using clear examples:

For example, the development of monoclonal antibody therapies over the last 20 years has completely transformed our ability to treat diseases including breast and other cancers,  rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The development of this technology would not have been possible without the use of animals both in developing the fundamental elements of the technology and in producing the medicines used to treat patients.

The Government also clarified its oft-misunderstood 2010 pledge to reduce the use of animals in research (The total number of procedures has risen in Britain as funding into life sciences continues to increase).

[In] 2010, the Government made a commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research. This commitment is not focused on baseline numbers which are influenced by a range of extraneous factors. Instead, it encompasses replacement, reduction and refinement (the 3Rs) more broadly, putting them at the heart of a science-led approach.

And that is what is at the heart of the pledge – the 3Rs of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animals in research. The Government lays out three strategic priorities to this end:

  • advancing the use of the 3Rs within the UK;
  • using international leadership to influence the uptake and adoption of the 3Rs approaches globally; and
  • promoting an understanding and awareness about the use of animals where no alternatives exist.

While the total number of animals used in research has risen, the UK has made strides in reducing the numbers of large animals used, with procedures on cats, dogs and primates all down from a decade ago (all three species combined now account for less than 0.2% of the total). Over 98% of all research in the UK is now conducted on mice, rats, birds and fish. Part of this change is due to genetically altered mice now making it possible to accurately model complex diseases which could previously only be studied in large mammals.

Replacing primates with transgenic mice

Advancing the use of the 3Rs within the UK

In order to help advance the 3Rs in the UK, the government plans to boost the funding for the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), from £5.3 million in 2010/11 to just over £8 million in 2014/15. The NC3Rs works with research institutions in the UK and beyond, to find ways in which animal research can be improved – for both the science and the animals. For example NC3Rs fund:

[R]esearch to improve the assessment and alleviation of pain in laboratory animals, and to ensure that rats and mice are killed as humanely as possible at the end of studies. The Centre reviews all applications submitted to the major bioscience funding bodies that involve the use of non-human primates, cats, dogs or horses, identifying opportunities to further implement the 3Rs. It also hosts an annual meeting for scientists, vets and animal care staff who use non-human primates to discuss welfare issues; recent meetings have included topics such as training animals to cooperate with procedures such as blood sampling in order to minimise any stress they might experience and the use of imaging technologies.

The government wishes to enhance the role of the Home Office inspectors (who visit every animal research institution in the UK on a regular basis) to include helping to disseminate best 3Rs practice.  This is a definite positive step as inspectors are in the best position to view best practice in one lab and offer advice to the next – though the Government has not made it clear if the number of inspectors will rise – something that would be welcomed.

Influencing the uptake and adoption of 3Rs approaches globally

The government wishes to do what it can to export the UK’s best practice abroad. The UK has some of the best animal welfare standards in the world. By pushing for better standards elsewhere the UK both helps improve the global welfare of animals, and helps to prevent the temptation for some researchers to conduct studies abroad where regulations are less stringent.

The UK pledges to do more work abroad, supporting the NC3Rs in its international work, and by trying to drive forward harmonised international standards – something which the EU Directive 2010/63 is creating across the EU. Furthermore, since the UK and EU have banned cosmetic testing and the importation of cosmetics tested on animals, the Government now want to push for similar bans elsewhere.

Promoting an understanding and awareness about the use of animals where no alternatives exist

Openness has been a growing theme in the UK when it comes to animal research. In October 2012, Understanding Animal Research announced that over 40 organisations had signed  the Declaration on Openness, committing them to developing the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. This came as a result of polls showing that the general public wanted more information about how animal research is conducted in the UK.

The Government supports the Concordat process, and also wishes to provide more information so that they may both understand and support the regulated use of animals in research. Public attitudes surveys in the next few years will show whether they succeed.

Overall, the Coalition pledges promise to show all the signs that the government is committed to the UK biosciences, while keeping animal welfare as a priority throughout the process.

Oxford University Opens its Doors

Oxford University has opened its doors to the BBC to allow them to film the animals in its facility. This is a giant step for a university which has a long history of being a target for animal rights extremism. Oxford University was the subject of a 4-year sustained campaign (activists do still turn even now, 10 years on). The BBC’s Fergus Walsh filmed mice, ferrets and macaques, including some behavioural experiments on the monkeys.

On the same day the Guardian newspaper reported in more detail on one of the Oxford studies mentioned in the BBC report, which used two different MRI scanning techniques – fMRI and diffusion-weighted MRI - to examine in both humans and macaques the functional relationship between different areas within a brain region known as the human ventrolateral frontal cortex (vlFC) and other regions of the brain, and identified key differences in regions of the vIFC involved in hearing and language processing, and in evaluating decisions after they have been made. This research. which is published in the journal Neuron, was described as “stunning work” by leading neuroscientist Karl Zilles, and will help improve the understanding of psychological disorders and the development of new therapies. It is also a good example of why claims by animal rights activists that fMRI can replace animal research are simply wrong, but then,  you already knew that!

Such outreach plays an important part in helping the general public understand conditions in animal research labs especially when groups like PETA like to put out misleading images of animal labs.

PETA's MMA game depiction of animal research.

PETA’s MMA game depiction of animal research.

In September 2012 we congratulated the University of Leicester for opening the doors of its new Central Research Facility.The result was hugely positive, and it helped quickly put to rest baseless allegations by a local animal rights group (which has since disappeared through lack of local support).

There is a definite trend towards transparency in animal research in the UK. In the Daily Telegraph, the Government’s  Chief Scientific Advisor, noted that, “People are becoming more confident and more transparent about animal research and I think that is extremely important.”

Recently the Medical Research Council produced video clips of its breeding facility in Harwell.

Still institutions could do more. Many US primate research center’s have systems to allow regular tours by the public – helping them both understand the role of animals in research, and to give them a real impression of what it looks like. It would be a positive step for more UK institutions to provide tours to local residents and journalists.

Speaking of Research

Addendum:

On the back of the Oxford University story, Tom Holder, Speaking of Research Founder, participated in a brief debate with Michelle Thew of the BUAV on BBC Radio 5 live which can be heard here (from 38 minutes).