Category Archives: Outreach News

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

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

Animal models are essential to biological research: issues and perspectives

The following article by Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Xavier Montagutelli was published on 31 July 2015 in the journal Future Science OA, and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi leads the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Division at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for her role in the discovery of HIV, and Xavier Montagutelli is head of the Central Animal Facility of the Institut Pasteur. This article follows the recent decision by the European Commission to reject the Stop Vivisection Initiative that sought to repeal European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and ban animal research in the EU.

Animal models are essential to biological research: issues and perspectives

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (1) & Xavier Montagutelli*,(2)

The use of animals for scientific purposes is both a longstanding practice in biological research and medicine, and a frequent matter of debate in our societies. The remarkable anatomical and physiological similarities between humans and animals, particularly mammals, have prompted researchers to investigate a large range of mechanisms and assess novel therapies in animal models before applying their discoveries to humans. However, not all results obtained on animals can be directly translated to humans, and this observation is emphasized by those who refute any value to animal research. At the same time, the place of the animals in our modern societies is often debated, particularly the right to use animals to benefit human purposes, with the possibility that animals are harmed. These two aspects are often mixed in confusing arguments, which does not help citizens and politicians to get a clear picture of the issues. This has been the case in particular during the evaluation of the European Citizen Initiative (ECI) ‘Stop Vivisection’ recently presented to the European Commission [1].


Humans and other mammals are very complex organisms in which organs achieve distinct physiological functions in a highly integrated and regulated fashion. Relationships involve a complex network of hormones, circulating factors and cells and cross-talk between cells in all the compartments. Biologists interrogate organisms at multiple levels: molecules, cells, organs and physiological functions, in healthy or diseased conditions. All levels of investigations are required to get a full description and understanding of the mechanisms. The first two, and in some instances three, levels of organization can be studied using in vitro approaches (e.g., cell culture). These techniques have become very sophisticated to mimic the 3D and complex structures of tissues. They represent major scientific advances and they have replaced the use of animals. On the other hand, the exploration of physiological functions and systemic interactions between organs requires a whole organism. It is, for example, the case for most hormonal regulations, for the dissemination of microorganisms during infectious diseases or for the influence of the intestinal microorganisms on immune defense or on the development of brain functions. In these many cases, no in vitro model is currently available to fully recapitulate these interactions, and investigations on humans and animals are still necessary. Hypotheses and models can emerge from in vitro studies but they must be tested and validated in a whole organism, otherwise they remain speculative. Scientists are very far from being able to predict the functioning of a complex organism from the study of separate cells, tissues and organs. Therefore, despite arguments put forward by the promotors of the ECI, studies on animals cannot be fully replaced by in vitro methods, and it is still a long way before they can.

Animal models have been used to address a variety of scientific questions, from basic science to the development and assessment of novel vaccines, or therapies. The use of animals is not only based on the vast commonalities in the biology of most mammals, but also on the fact that human diseases often affect other animal species. It is particularly the case for most infectious diseases but also for very common conditions such as Type I diabetes, hypertension, allergies, cancer, epilepsy, myopathies and so on. Not only are these diseases shared but the mechanisms are often also so similar that 90% of the veterinary drugs used to treat animals are identical or very similar to those used to treat humans. A number of major breakthroughs in basic science and medical research have been possible because of observations and testing on animal models. Most vaccines, which save millions of human and animal lives every year, have been successfully developed using animal models. The treatment of Type I diabetes by insulin was first established in the dog by Banting and McLeod who received the Nobel Prize in 1921 [2]. Cellular therapies for tissue regeneration using stem cells have been engineered and tested in animals [3]. Many surgical techniques have been designed and improved in various animal species before being applied to humans. The discoveries in which animal models played a critical role are indeed numerous and led to many Nobel Prizes.

It is, however, noticeable that the results obtained on animals are not necessarily confirmed in further human studies. Various reasons can be evoked. First, despite large similarities, there are differences between a given animal species and humans. For example, over 95% of the genes are homologous between mice and humans but there are also differences for example in the members of genes families, in gene redundancies and in the fine regulation of gene-expression level. These genetic differences translate into physiological differences which are increasingly better described and understood. While some people like the ECI promotors use these differences to refute the value of animal models, many including ourselves strongly advocate for further improving our knowledge and understanding of these differences and for taking them into account in experimental designs and interpretation of observations [4]. Moreover, these differences may provide opportunities to unravel novel mechanisms and imagine innovative therapies.

Research in mice has led to many medical advances - most recently the development of PD-1 inhibitors for treating cancers

Research in mice has led to many medical advances – most recently the development of PD-1 inhibitors for treating cancers

The second reason is due to genetic and physiological variations within each species or between closely related species. Laboratory mice have been developed as inbred strains which have highly homogeneous genetic composition to increase the reproducibility of results and the statistical power of experiments. Reports on animal models of human conditions often speak of ‘the mouse model of…’, referring in fact to observations made in a given genetic background. However, the clinical presentation often varies if another mouse strain is considered. A striking example is provided by a study published in November 2014 in Science by a team who reported that some mouse strains are fully resistant to Ebola virus, others die without specific symptoms and others develop fatal hemorrhagic fever [5]. Another example is the difference of responses to SIV, the monkey homolog to human HIV, between Rhesus macaques which develop simian AIDS and sooty mangabeys which do not develop symptoms despite high levels of circulating virus [6]. This range of responses reflects in fact the variety of clinical observations among human patients. These examples illustrate how animal models must be considered: no single animal model is able to mimic a given human disease which is itself polymorphic between patients, but the differences between strains or species provide unmatched opportunity to understand disease development and differential host response, and to eventually find new cures.

The second issue regarding the use of animals for scientific purposes is animal protection and welfare. This is the scope of the European Directive 2010/63/EU, which has set the regulatory framework for all animal research. Scientists have recognized for decades the importance of giving full consideration to three fundamental principles [7], which have become the backbone of the European Directive. First, animals must not be used whenever other, non-animal-based, experimental approaches are available, with similar relevance and reliability. Second, the number of animals used must be adjusted to the minimum needed to reach a conclusion. Third, all provisions must be taken throughout the procedures to minimize any harm inflicted to the animals. These principles, known as ‘the three Rs rules’, for replacement, reduction and refinement, have become the standard to which every project involving the use of animals is evaluated.

Animal research is conducted in compliance with regulatory provisions which cover the inspection and licensing of animal premises, the training and competence of all personal designing projects, performing animal procedures and taking care of animals and the mandatory authorization of every project by a competent authority upon ethical evaluation by an Animal Ethics Committee. The criteria for evaluation are based on the 3Rs rules and a cost–benefit analysis to evaluate if the potential harm to the animals, which must be reduced to the lowest possible level, is outweighed by significant progress in terms of knowledge on human or animal health. Regulation imposes that ethics committees include members concerned by animal protection and not involved in animal research. In response to the ECI, the European Commission has underlined, in a statement issued on 3 June 2015 [8], that animal experimentation remains important for improving human and animal health. At the same time, it is committed to promoting the development and validation of non-animal-based approaches, and to enforcing the application of the 3Rs rules by all players, including the research community. Europe has therefore implemented one of the strictest regulatory frameworks for the protection of animals used in research.

21st century medical research is highly interdisciplinary, a fact that is reflected in the design of new research institutions such as the Francis Crick Institute in London

21st century medical research is highly interdisciplinary, a fact that is reflected in the design of new research institutions such as the Francis Crick Institute in London

The greatest challenges faced by modern biomedical research concern complex, multifactorial, diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, pathological consequences of aging among others, for which all experimental approaches are indispensable because of their complementarity: biochemistry, genomics, cell culture, computer modeling, animal model and clinical studies. Research on relevant, carefully designed, well-characterized and controlled animal models will remain for a long time an essential step for fundamental discoveries, for testing hypotheses at the organism level and for the validation of human data. Animal models must be constantly improved to be more reliable and informative. Likewise, animal protection requires permanent consideration. These two objectives, far from being antagonistic, must be anchored in high-quality science.


1. The European Citizens ‘Initiative – Stop vivisection.
2. Nobelprize.Org – The discovery of insulin.
3. Klug MG, Soonpaa MH, Koh GY, Field LJ. Genetically selected cardiomyocytes from differentiating embronic stem cells form stable intracardiac grafts. J. Clin. Invest. 98(1), 216–224 (1996). [CrossRef] [Medline] [CAS]
4. Ergorul C, Levin LA. An example on glaucoma research: solving the lost in translation problem: improving the effectiveness of translational research. Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 13(1), 108–114 (2013). [CrossRef] [Medline] [CAS]
5. Rasmussen AL, Okumura A, Ferris MT et al. Host genetic diversity enables ebola hemorrhagic fever pathogenesis and resistance. Science 346(6212), 987–991 (2014). [CrossRef] [Medline] [CAS]
6. Liovat AS, Jacquelin B, Ploquin MJ, Barre-Sinoussi F, Muller-Trutwin MC. African non human primates infected by SIV – why don’t they get sick? Lessons from studies on the early phase of non-pathogenic siv infection. Curr. HIV Res. 7(1), 39–50 (2009). [CrossRef] [Medline] [CAS]
7. Russell WMS, Burch RL. The Principles of Human Experimental Technique. Methuen, London, UK (1959).
8. European Commission – Annex to the communication from the commission on the European Citizen’s Initiative, ‘Stop Vivisection’.


Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
1. INSERM & Unité de Régulation des Infections Rétrovirales, Institut Pasteur, 75724 Paris, France
Xavier Montagutelli
2. Animalerie Centrale, Institut Pasteur, 75724 Paris, France

Canada Releases 2012 Animal Use Statistics

Earlier this month the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) released its report on the number of animals used in Canada for scientific purposes. The CCAC is an independent oversight body that oversees the ethical use of animals in research. They also develop guidelines and promote training programs to ensure that all individuals involved in animal research or welfare are properly trained before being allowed to work with the animals. The CCAC reports that in 2012, 2,889,009 animals were used for research, teaching and testing in Canada. This is down 444,680 animals, from 3,333,689 animals that were used in 2011. These numbers include all vertebrates and Cephalapods, but do not include invertebrates like fruit flies or nematode worms. Animals can be used in more than one protocol provided these additional protocols do not result in pain.

2012 Canadian Animal research and testing Graph

Mice (43.2%), fish (28.8%), rats (7.8%) and birds (6.6%) were the most common species, together accounting for 86% of animals used. These numbers represent a shift in the type of animal used, as fish have been the animal most frequently used by Canadian institutions for the past three years. The majority of animals (61%) were used in studies of a fundamental nature/basic research, representing 1,815,083 animals. There has been significant changes to the reporting methodology utilized to analyze the current data and the CCAC made the following statement with respect to the 2012, report:

“Due to these differences in data management and reporting, it is not possible to make accurate comparisons with CCAC PAU and CI data from previous years.”

2012 Canadian Research and Testing Table

More information about animal research in Canada can be found within the Speaking of Research Media Briefing Notes for Canada.


Ireland releases 2014 animal research statistics

In our effort to build a comprehensive picture of animal research statistics worldwide, our latest post is on the recently released (permanent link) statistics for Ireland. These are compiled by the Health Products Regulatory Authority of Ireland (HPRA). These statistics are produced in accordance with EU Directive 2010/63 which regulates animal research across EU countries.

The restrictions and standards set by the Directive are expected to enhance animal welfare and ensure that animals are used in studies only when their use is  strongly justified and following independent assessment. The Directive firmly anchors in EU Legislation the 3Rs,  i.e. Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

The total number of animals used for the first time was 224,249 in 2014,  down almost 20% from 2013. The total number of procedures was slightly higher at 226,684. These numbers include all vertebrates and Cephalapods, but do not include invertebrates like fruit flies or nematode worms.

Unlike countries, like the UK and US, basic research is a much smaller portion of overall research (15%) in Ireland whereas ‘Toxicity and other safety testing’ is larger, accounting for over 61% of all Irish procedures on animals.

Animal Research in Ireland in 2014

95% of animals used in research were rodents (mainly mice). Dogs and cats, combined, accounted for only 0.05% of the total number of animals, and no primates were used at all.

The full Irish statistical document provides information on the source of the animals, the different types of research (broken down in different ways, such as by body system) and the severity – providing a good picture of what research goes on in Ireland.

While the number of animals used is down from the previous year, the HPRA warn about jumping to conclusions on any trend:

The HPRA also advises that in respect of the HPRA’s 2013 data, it would be unsound to directly compare this data as it is only the second year of a new reporting structure to which reporters are getting better acquainted to the changed reporting requirements and provisions required. Extreme caution should be applied therefore in any attempt to draw comparisons to previous years’ figures.

We look forward to seeing another high quality statistical release next year.

Speaking of Research