Tag Archives: understanding animal research

Things to see at the 66th AALAS National Meeting

Phoenix AALASThere’s plenty to see at the 66th AALAS National Meeting, which starts on Sunday. Here are a few sessions, booths and activities we think are worth your while during your stay in Phoenix, Arizona.

Speaking of Research Poster!

We have submitted a poster (P155) this year for AALAS. So make sure you come and check it out.

Speaking of Research (SR) aims to provide accurate information about the importance of animal research in medical and veterinary science. Informed discussion is imperative to understanding differing points of view, but all too often the voice advocating the value of ethically conducted scientific research involving animals is absent. Scientists and laboratory animal science professionals (LASP) each have a crucial role in educating the general public and policy makers regarding the importance of this work. Scientists are able to provide unique insights about how and why they use animal models. Why is it important? How will animals and humans benefit from the knowledge that is gained? LASP are able to communicate the conditions in which the animals in scientific studies live. How are they cared for? Who looks after them? Are they treated with compassion and respect? SR believes that animal research should be conducted with the utmost care, responsibility, and respect towards the animals. […] SR believes that accurate information is necessary to underpin honest discussion surrounding the role of animals in science.

Crisis Planning Seminar (Monday, 8am, Room 120BC)

Is your institution’s crisis plan gathering dust on the top of some bookshelf? When did you last rehearse how you would react in the event of an infiltration by animal rights activists, records being leaked to reporters, research animals being “liberated”, or protests at the home of a researcher?

Chck out the seminar on Preparing for an Animal Activism Crisis: Lessons Learned on Monday morningThe session will look at examples of good and bad crisis handling in other sectors before focusing on what we can learn from crisis situations faced by animal research organisations in Europe and the US.

While there is very little we can do to anticipate how or when a crisis will arise, the fundamental principles of crisis management are the same. It is essential that we are prepared in an emergency, have clear guidelines as to how to operate during the crisis, and understand how to create a healthy operating environment afterwards.

For a topic as controversial and emotive as animal research, we also must plan in advance how we will reach out in a crisis to our various publics: the local community, reporters, elected officials, regulators, and others. This session will draw on first-hand experience of those working in research facilities in the United States and Europe that have faced such crises, and from experts in crisis communications for animal research. The session will outline the steps needed to prepare for a crisis, how to manage the crisis in the short term, and how to ensure that the reputations of institutions and researchers do not suffer long-term damage.

The seminar is chaired by Lynn Anderson (Covance) and facilitated by Jacquie Calnan of Americans for Medical Progress.The presenters are Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research; Kirk Leech of the European Animal Research Association; Friedhelm Vogel from Covance and Jim Newman of MD Anderson Cancer Center (who will speak about his experiences while at OHSU/ONPRC).

Openness and Animal Research: Making our Conversations Meaningful (Tuesday, 1pm, Room 131C, Workshop 17)

Bella Williams, supported by Wendy Jarrett, from Understanding Animal Research will be running an afternoon workshop to explore the issue of Openness around the use of animals in research. There has been a recent buzz about openness and transparency where animal research is concerned. But what does that mean, how does it work in practice, and will anyone believe that organisations are telling the truth? Both Bella and Wendy have been a key part of the development of the Concordat on Openness on Animals in Research, so if you want to learn more about it then book your place on this workshop now.

The 2014 Openness Awards celebrated efforts to encourage better communication about animal research

The 2014 Openness Awards celebrated efforts to encourage better communication about animal research

In the UK openness took a giant leap forward in 2014 with the launch of the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research. The Concordat had been developed over 18 months and included several rounds of consultation with public and stakeholders (including those opposed to animal research). Openness is something that everyone appears to want, no matter which side of the animal research “debate” they sit on. However, openness means different things to different people. So how do we define openness in a way that is meaningful? What do we need to tell people?

Booths – FBR (231) and AMP (232)

Two booths to check out of animal research advocacy groups which are working hard to support the research community in the US.

Foundation for Biomedical Research – Booth 231 in Exhibit Hall

Americans for Medical Progress – Booth 232 in the Exhibit Hall.

Both booths will be offering a variety of resources and educational materials to support researchers in their efforts to explain how and why they must conduct medical, veterinary and scientific research on animals. Take the opportunity to chat to staff there about how you can help.

So make sure you get the most out of your trip to the AALAS 66th National Meeting.

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.

Forty Reasons to Act. Five Minutes to do it.

The Science Action Network, which includes Speaking of Research, have been working hard to help dispel some of the animal rights myths across the web. Thanks to your help we have rebalanced many of the online discussions about animal research, for example, in the Independent (UK national newspaper) there was a poorly constructed argument about why mouse models can’t be useful for cancer. The Science Action Network got to work tweeting out this #ARnonsense (Twitter hashtag used to alert people about animal rights nonsense that needs commenting on). Currently there are twice as many comments explaining the merit of mouse models as those opposing animal tests, and twice as many votes disagreeing with the article as agreeing with it (95 to 42 at time of writing). There is still time for you to add your own votes and comments.

Now Understanding Animal Research have created “Forty Reasons Why We Need Animals in Research“. This allows people to mix and match statements to make their own argument for animal research that they can use online:

Combined with the @AnimalresearchRT, which lists all the #ARnonsense currently needing a response, you have the directions and tools for finding and responding to the mistruths of those who misrepresent animal research. All that is needed if for you to spend 5 minutes per week acting on it.

UAR have all this information, including lists of #ARnonsense, on one page of their website for you to share easily among your friends and colleagues.

Act now!

Here are three things you could do in the next 5 minutes:

Vote that you agree with animal research on this poll.

Leave a comment and vote that you disagree with this article.

Vote on this poll.

Why do we use Genetically Modified animals?

This excellent 3 minute video, produced by Understanding Animal Research, shows how the use of genetically modified animals can benefit modern medicine – in this instance, to create a method of screening for certain bacteria.

We look forward to more videos from UAR.

p.s. please give the video a “thumbs up” so that it can spread far and wide and improve people’s understanding of animal research.

Public Opinion and the Importance of Transparency in the UK

The UK has a long history of animal rights activism and many might expect the public to be a difficult crowd to win over. However over the years the British public have expressed overwhelming support for the use of animal experiments for medical purposes. In 2010 90% were conditional acceptors (that is agreeing with medical research provided suffering is minimised and there are no alternative methods – all of which must be true if a project is to be licensed in the UK) and 60% were unconditional accepts.

So it was with some disappointment that the release of the latest Ipsos MORI polls which show a 5% drop in conditional accepts to 85%, and a 5% drop in unconditional accepts to 55%. To put in perspective, the British public still firmly support the humane, regulated use of animal research in concordance with the use of the 3Rs. It was notable that the survey found that support for animal research and enthusiasm for science was highest among those with higher levels of educational attainment, which should noth be surprising as the Ipsos MORI report notes that “Greater knowledge of science tends to garner more favourability towards it – so ABs [a higher socioeconomic group] are more positive about science’s role (84%), just as they claim to be best informed about scientific developments”.

Nonetheless, David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, attended a press conference on the release of the statistics stating that animal research forms a small but vital component of bio-medical research. He also offered examples of some of the UK Medical Research Council funded work in dementia that involved animal work.

So how have research institutions and advocacy groups responded to the (albeit small) drop in support by the public? With action!

Understanding Animal Research have organised the “Declaration on Openness on Animal Research,” signed by 41 institutions including medical research charities (inc. Cancer Research UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK), Universities (inc. Oxford and Cambridge), Pharmaceuticals (inc. GSK and AstraZeneca) and other institutions. Those signatories have agreed:

The life sciences sector is at the forefront of developing ground breaking treatments and cures which transform the lives of humans and animals. To do this we need to increase understanding of normal biological functions and disease. Where possible, we use cells grown in a lab, computer models and human volunteers. When this isn’t possible, research may involve animals. When we need to use animals, we strive to reduce the number needed, and seek to develop viable alternatives.

Public acceptance of the use of animals in research has been strong over the last decade. Public scrutiny has also played an essential role in building the world-leading ethical framework that supports our research and ensures it meets the highest welfare standards, only using animals where no alternative exists.

Confidence in our research rests on the scientific community embracing an open approach and taking part in an ongoing conversation about why and how animals are used in research and the benefits of this. We need to continue to develop open dialogue between the research community and the public.

We, the undersigned, commit to work together to establish a Concordat that will develop principles of openness,

It is fantastic to see institutions agreeing to do more to explain to the public why and how animal research is carried out. We, at Speaking of Research, hope that many more institutions get on board with this Concordat. With almost two thirds of the general public claiming to be poorly informed about animal research, it is important that science institutions do more to fill these gaps in public understanding, let animal rights groups attempt to plug the gap themselves (leading to many of the common myths of research being propagated). After all, the Ipsos-MORI poll shows very clearly that the better informed people are about the role played by animal research in medical science, the more likely they are to support it.

In the meantime Speaking of Research continue to play their part in informing people around the world about animal research. A major campaign at the moment is the Science Action Network, which we urge you to get involved in.

Introducing the Science Action Network

Speaking of Research and Understanding Animal Research (UAR) are proud to announce a new joint initiative – the Science Action Network. We aim to enable scientists to network together to provide both authority and public weight on discussions surrounding animal research.

The Science Action Network

Brushing your teeth – 25 minutes per week.
Queuing – 75 minutes per week.
Blinking – 5 hours per week.
Time taken to play your part in defending biomedical research – just 5 minutes every week, less time than it takes to refuel your car

Understanding Animal Research is setting up a new Science Action Network to encourage you to respond to misinformation about animal research.

Animal research remains a hot topic, with many spurious and misinformed claims made by animal rights groups and frequent mistakes made by journalists- such as claiming that animal testing could currently be replaced by alternative methods.

We need your help to provide accurate information about animal research – commenting on news articles, emailing misinformed editors and voting on polls – we want to make sure that those speaking for research are those who understand the research.

So we are asking you for just 5 minutes of your time each week to respond to claims made by animal rights groups. By following us on Twitter (@animalevidence) and Facebook (Understanding Animal Research) you can be updated on the latest misinformation alerts, as well as submitting your own by using the #ARnonsense (Animal Rights nonsense) hashtag on Twitter.

We look forward to working together with you in this campaign.

It is particularly important that you share this campaign with as many people as you can. Keep checking the #ARnonsense hashtag regularly (If you copy the link it will work for people who aren’t signed up to Twitter – alternatively use http://tinyurl.com/ARnonsense) and remember to use the hashtag yourself to alert the community to the misrepresentation of animal research.

Together we can start to push back the tide of animal rights nonsense. We fully recommend people using the information on both the SR and UAR websites in their efforts to debunk spurious animal rights claims and remember to use the “bad science” section of our website.

Speaking of Research &
Understanding Animal Research

Parkinson’s Patient Meet the Marmosets

Understanding Animal Research has produced a fantastic video (below) showing Geoff Butcher, a Parkinson’s patient, going to a medical research laboratory to discuss some of the latest animal research models used to treat his disease. Parkinson’s affects over 120,000 people in the UK, and over 1 million people in the US, with many millions more touched by its effects through friends and family.

When some drug users in California taking a synthetic heroin they started to develop Parkinsonsonian-like symptoms. Further studies showed the chemical MPTP was responsible for this. This discovery has allowed scientists to use MPTP to create a better model for Parkinson’s. The added advantage of this model is that it is non-progressive, the animals’ Parkinsononian symptoms do not get worse over time. In the video it is remarked:

Geoff: They (the marmosets) actually seem quite happy
Scientist: They do. We think it’s a very good model because the animals are actually able to maintain themselves without any drug treatment

This allows the scientists to try and develop treatments for Parkinson’s disease without needing to recreate the full suffering that exists within human Parkinson’s patients.

You can check out more similar videos on UAR’s animal evidence Youtube page.