Background Briefing on Animal Research in the UK

In February we launched our US briefing. In April we launched our Canadian briefing. Now, we’re launching our UK background briefing on animal research (all of these can be found on the resources page). We hope this will offer journalists, editors, broadcasters and interested members of the public who may wish 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 briefing here.

UK animal research media briefing

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

Our briefings are based on the Science Media Centre’s “Briefing Notes on the Use of Animals in Research”. We thank the Science Media Centre for offering their support.

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.

ALF Claims Responsibility for CALAS National Office Vandalism

On Tuesday, July 15, an act of vandalism occurred near the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science National Office in Toronto, ON.  There were no injuries and a police investigation is ongoing.

CALAS Canadian Association Laboratory Animal ScienceThe extremist website Bite Back published an unsigned communique:

“On July 14, 2014, in Toronto, the Animal Liberation Front injected butyric acid into the office of the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science. CALAS is an organization made up of vivisectors that promotes animal research. The butyric acid will soak through the carpet and into the floorboards of their offices, and major repairs will be needed to get rid of the stench. Any building managers considering taking in CALAS as a tenant should be aware that unless you want something similar to happen in your offices, then think twice before doing business with these murderers. -ALF”

Any type of vandalism, violence or intimidation is counterproductive to informed and civil discussion.  We, at Speaking of Research condemn this type of activity while applauding CALAS for their dedication to the welfare of laboratory animals in the face of this cowardly and illegal act. The following excerpt is taken from the CALAS website:

CALAS/ACSAL is a national association dedicated to providing high quality training and educational resources to animal care professionals across Canada. We believe animal research, when necessary, must be conducted professionally, ethically and compassionately.Our training and certification programs are internationally respected and support national standards of excellence in animal research, teaching, and testing across Canada. Our members are committed to the humane and professional care of research animals. They have received advanced training in the highest standards of animal care. We support a diverse group of professionals including animal care attendants, animal health technicians, and veterinarians.

The irony that ALF failed to see is that this association, by promoting training for laboratory animal professionals and promoting the sharing of best practices actually lead to improved animal welfare of laboratory animals.

Speaking of Research

Top marks for Speaking of Research website

The industry magazine Lab Animal occasionally reviews websites applicable to it’s readers. Earlier this year, they reviewed the Speaking of Research website. The article does a good job of relaying the history behind how Speaking of Research began and some background on the people involved. They also note that SR does a lot of reporting on situations with animal extremists in Europe and North America.

The reviewer goes through each section of the website giving their readership the basic idea behind each of the sections and points out a few of the more interesting items beyond just news items, including games, quizzes and an article on Gorgon aliens.

In reviewing our “AR Undone” section (now called “Animal Rights Pseudoscience”), which responds to 19 common myths used by animal rights groups, the reviewer described SR’s responses as “authoritative, heavily references and, in some cases, linked to other websites and documents.”

“This is an excellent, informative site … It’s a must read for any animal researcher.”

The Speaking of Research website is then graded on content, appearance and usability, receiving the maximum of five out of five paws in each category.

Speaking of Research website rating

Read the full article

We are very pleased to have received such high marks from Lab Animal and truly appreciate the review.

Pamela

Why is alcohol research with nonhuman animals essential?

The following guest post is from Jeff Weiner, a Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine.  Dr. Weiner is the Director of an NIH-funded translational research grant that employs rodent, monkey and human models to study the neurobiological substrates that contribute to alcohol addiction vulnerability.  He is also a founding Co-Chair of a new Animal Research and Ethics committee established by the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Jeff Weiner

Jeff Weiner

I am a neuroscientist who directs a translational research program which uses humans, monkeys, and rodents to study  the neurobiological mechanisms associated with increased vulnerability to alcoholism. As an addiction researcher, I am frequently asked why we need to study this topic or why we need to use animal models in our work. I’ve often heard people say that “alcoholism is not really a disease” or that “alcoholics just lack the will to quit drinking”. Others have asked “what can we possibly learn about alcoholism by studying monkeys or rats”?   Well, there are some very good answers to these questions.

First of all, alcoholism is most definitely a disease. While it may be more difficult to diagnose than other illnesses like cancer or diabetes, there is overwhelming evidence, from human and animal studies, that excessive alcohol exposure profoundly changes the brain (and many other organ systems). We now know that alcohol-induced changes in brain activity can last for a very long time, even after the drinking behavior stops, that these neuronal alterations actually make it harder for an addict to quit, and much more likely to relapse when they finally do stop drinking. This research may help to explain why alcohol use disorders affect 5-8% of the US population at a cost to the economy in excess of 180 billion dollars and that alcohol accounts for 4% of the global burden of disease1.

Alcohol consumption USA alcoholism (2)Unlike Huntingon’s disease, alcoholism is not caused by a single gene defect. However, basic research has shown that a complex interaction between our genes and environmental factors, like chronic stress and exposure to traumatic events, can dramatically increase susceptibility to alcohol use disorders. These findings may help to explain why members of our military and their families are disproportionately affected by alcoholism.

Animal research has contributed greatly to the advancement of treatments for alcoholism. Animal models of alcohol use disorders have played an essential role in the discovery of two FDA-approved medications for the treatment of alcohol addiction (naltrexone and acamprosate). In addition, many new pharmacotherapies that have shown promise in animal models are currently being tested in human clinical trials. These new medications may prove even more effective at treating alcohol addiction.

In fact, one recent example illustrates just how powerful animal models of alcohol addiction can be. In 2008, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA used a sophisticated rodent model of alcohol dependence (that they had spent years validating) to show that an FDA-approved anticonvulsant drug called gabapentin might be particularly effective at reducing the escalation in alcohol drinking that occurs after rats have become physically dependent on this drug2. Other researchers at Scripps quickly followed up on these exciting findings and recently completed a carefully controlled, clinical trial testing gabapentin in treatment-seeking alcoholics.   The results of this study, recently published in JAMA Psychiatry, revealed that gabapentin significantly reduced alcohol intake and dependence-associated symptoms like craving, depression, and sleep disturbances3. While much more work needs to be done to confirm these promising initial findings, these studies clearly demonstrate how effective animal models can be in our quest to discover better treatments for this devastating disorder.

It is worth noting that the vast majority of animal research on alcoholism is with rats and mice. Rodents can effectively model many elements of addiction including symptoms of tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, and relapse. Non-human primate models of alcoholism have also proven invaluable in helping to translate discoveries from rodent models to humans.

It is also worth mentioning that all animal research is regulated at multiple levels and by multiple entities. At the federal level the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with enforcing the regulations under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This Act also requires that animal research be overseen and monitored by local animal care and use committees at the institutional level. Furthermore, research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) must also meet standards for animal care and use as set forth by the Public Health Services (PHS) Policy.

So, while some may still question whether or not alcoholism is really a disease, it seems difficult to argue against the idea that more research is needed to address the huge medical and socio-economic costs associated with alcohol use and abuse. It also seems clear that animal models are a valuable tool that are accelerating the drug discovery process and helping to bring urgently needed treatments to the clinic.

For more information: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/

References

  1.             Rehm J, Mathers C, Popova S, Thavorncharoensap M, Teerawattananon Y, Patra J. Global burden of disease and injury and economic cost attributable to alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders. Lancet. Jun 27 2009;373(9682):2223-2233.
  2.             Roberto M, Gilpin NW, O’Dell LE, et al. Cellular and behavioral interactions of gabapentin with alcohol dependence. J Neurosci. May 28 2008;28(22):5762-5771.
  3.             Mason BJ, Quello S, Goodell V, Shadan F, Kyle M, Begovic A. Gabapentin treatment for alcohol dependence: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA internal medicine. Jan 2014;174(1):70-77.

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

Israel provides animal research statistics for 2013

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, has reported on the 2013 animal testing statistics, which were recently released by the Health Ministry’s Council for Experimentation of Animals.

The total numbers rose 6% to 299,144 animals, of which 86% were mice or rats. This total is still much lower than the peak of over 340,000 animals were used in 2007. Rodent use has increased since 2010, from 81% of the total up to 86%, with an increase in genetically modified rodents likely to be influencing this rise.

Animals used in research in Israel 2010-13

Click to Enlarge

Non-rodent species have declined since 2010, with dogs and cats falling to 0, and primate use falling by almost a third, from 33 down to 25.

Dogs cats monkeys used in Israel

Most research, 80%, is conducted at universities and research institutes, while only 10% were carried out by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Cosmetic testing is illegal in Israel, as is the sale and import of cosmetics and cleaning materials tested on animals.

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

On July 10th 2014 (Thursday), the UK Home Office will publish the 2013 statistics for animal research in England, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland publishes it statistics separately, though its numbers are very small by comparison). We will provide a detailed post on this on Thursday as we have in previous years.

Speaking of Research

Israeli data from:
2013 – Ido Efrati, Haaretz, Israeli science used 6% more animals in testing last year
2012 – Dan Even, Haaretz, Number of animal experiments up for first time since 2008
2011 – Dan Even, Haaretz, Only 3 percent of animals survive lab experiments
2010 – Ilan Lior, Haaretz, Study shows steady decline in use of animals for lab testing in Israel

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.