This article, by SR member Michael Brunt, was first published in the March 2015 issue of AALAS’ Laboratory Animal Science Professional.
In 2013 the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science (CALAS) launched the InReach for OutReach program. One goal of InReach for OutReach is to assist our members to actively articulate the positive contributions they make to our society. The hope is to foster a culture where laboratory animal science professionals will feel accepted, valued, and recognized for their hard work and dedication to improving the lives of animals and people. Canada is an open-minded county when it comes to science. Roughly 60% of Canadians believe the potential suffering of an animal to be acceptable or somewhat acceptable for safety testing of medicine, conducting medical research or teaching and training of professionals such as veterinarians.1 Ninety-three percent of Canadians are moderately or very interested in scientific discoveries or technological developments and also have the lowest reservations towards science in the 17 countries considered. 2 This is great news for laboratory animal science professionals because we are an essential part of making many of those discoveries happen. With such a receptive population, the InReach for OutReach program can play an important role to empower laboratory animal science professionals in Canada.
Another goal is forging international partnerships to create synergies, utilize existing resources and coordinate outreach efforts. During the AALAS Foundation’s “WE CARE” campaign to educate the general public about the professionals that care for research animals, many groups and associations assisted in its international promotion across social media. “Caring for Animals – It’s Not Just My Job…It’s My Passion” is a message that reached millions of people, educating and fostering a culture where the contributions, dedication to our animals and personal sacrifices of laboratory animal science professionals can be openly acknowledged and valued.
Most laboratory animal science professionals choose this career because they love animals. We talk to our animals. We hold them close, hug or stroke them. We get to know their personalities. Most importantly we bond with them. We know that the emotional bond that is formed enhances the psychological wellbeing of the animals and helps to give them the absolute highest quality of life while they are with us. Sadly, projects end and our companions are euthanized to retrieve the vital scientific data that is required to make discoveries that will improve the health and relieve the suffering of millions of humans and animals. Rationally we know that it’s true but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. So what do laboratory animal science professionals do? We cry and grieve, and bond with the next group of animals that arrive because they deserve the absolute highest quality of life while they are with us as well. The repeated traumatic emotional loss for laboratory animal science professionals can cause significant health effects, confusing feelings of guilt, burnout and even cause some individuals to leave the profession. Everyone copes with loss in differing ways but I feel it is most important to support each other at every opportunity.
It is imperative for each of us to explore these emotional questions because we must educate ourselves with our own answers before we can share our truth to educate the public. In 2001, a U.S. nonprofit association for euthanasia technicians, the Mazer Guild, published 12 supportive concepts for its members. They have been adapted for laboratory animal science professionals by Alison Hopkins (www.monkeypuzzletraining.co.uk) in an article that was published in Animal Lab News.3 The supportive concepts acknowledge the challenges that laboratory animal science professionals face on a daily basis. Through that acknowledgement one is able to explore and navigate the emotions associated with the repeated traumatic loss of our animals. The concepts also reiterate our obligations as laboratory animal science professionals to promote public understanding, encourage discussion and support others that choose this career path.
We choose this path because it is our passion! We are passionate about animals that we have the privilege to care for with compassion and respect. We are passionate about the science that continually makes strides towards new therapeutic advancements. We are passionate about alleviating the suffering of our fellow animals and people who agonize with debilitating and painful diseases. “Caring for Animals – It’s Not Just My Job…It’s My Passion”
Michael Brunt, MSc, RMLAT, CMAR is a Project Manager for the Campus Animal Facilities at the University of Guelph, Canada.
- Canadian Council on Animal Care. [Internet]. 2013. 2013 National Survey. [Cited 7 January 2015]. Available at: http://www.ccac.ca/Documents/2013_National_Survey.pdf
- Council of Canadian Academies. [Internet]. 2014. Science Culture: Where Canada Stands. [Cited 7 January 2015]. Available at: http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/assessments/completed/science-culture.aspx
- Alison Hopkins. [Internet]. 2014. Towards Fostering Emotional Resiliency in the Workplace. [Cited 7 January 2015]. Available at: http://www.alnmag.com/articles/2014/04/toward-fostering-emotional-resilience-workplace