One of the core principles at SR is that animal research should be conducted with the utmost care, responsibility and respect towards the animals. All personnel involved in animal research should strictly follow the pertinent guidelines, regulations and laws. Unfortunately, as in all human endeavors, there are isolated individuals who sometimes fail to adhere to established principles. The compliance system exists to detect such instances and take corrective action.
Recently, the USDA confirmed that an individual researcher at the University of Rochester was in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The University was the first to discover the problem, reporting it to the USDA (the institution in charge of ensuring that the Animal Welfare Act is implemented), who confirmed the findings of non-compliance. The USDA were quick to identify the violations and publish the results, publicly, on their website. This is an example of the compliance system at work.
As expected, animal rights groups, such as SAEN (warning: AR website), have used this opportunity to attack animal research, promising to “Expos[e] the truth to wipe out animal experimentation”. However, there are two important facts to consider:
- This was an isolated incident; and
- the system in place to deal with such incidents, responded appropriately.
We say the system responded appropriately in citing the University because the facts that are apparent about this case strongly indicate that this was an unacceptable deviation from established norms for the care and use of non-human primates in biomedical research laboratories.
With very few exceptions (for example, the need to restrict food in advance of anesthesia), monkeys must be fed every single day, with no exceptions or mistakes being permissible. What is worse, deprivation of food for multiple, consecutive days certainly produces profound distress in an animal that should have been identified by the combination of researchers, veterinary care providers and animal husbandry staff who were supposed to be carefully monitoring these animals every day. These animals were failed by the people who were responsible for their health and well-being. We hope that the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee that supervises these research activities have taken comprehensive measures to ensure that an event like this never happens again.
Speaking of Research must condemn the actions the researcher in question. Such behavior undermines the hard work that the rest of the animal research community does to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare. Furthermore, we commend the USDA and the University of Rochester for the actions they have taken to ensure that such violations do not occur ever again.
The success of our training, accreditation and compliance systems is not only measured by their ability to detect and correct isolated violations, but also in preventing them from occurring in the first place. Here, we believe it is imperative to recognize the tens of thousands of persons that conduct their research with the utmost care, responsibility and respect towards the animals.