April 22nd 2020
The following joint statement is the result of a collaboration between several research advocacy organizations – including Speaking of Research – along with individual biomedical researchers, animal care experts, and university communicators. Research organizations are invited to share this statement by posting it on their own websites or linking to this webpage. We also encourage the research community to share this statement widely with colleagues and the general public via social media.
Universities and biomedical research companies around the world have taken tremendous, unprecedented steps to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 global health emergency. Preventing coronavirus deaths and returning the world to a state of normalcy will require therapies that decrease disease mortality paired with vaccines and other evidence-based strategies that prevent further transmission. Until the time when these health interventions are available, it’s expected the novel coronavirus will negatively impact our collective health and welfare, along with the world economy.
The advancements required to combat COVID-19 can ONLY take place IF the research community maintains access to all proven scientific techniques. These include human and animal studies to identify possible new treatments and vaccine strategies, followed by tests to ensure they are safe and effective. Countless research organizations have shifted efforts and resources to make the global health emergency their highest priority. Scientists, veterinarians, animal caretakers and critical support staff continue to risk their own health – and the health of their families – to conduct these urgent studies aimed at saving lives and caring for the animals this research requires. Their dedication cannot go unnoticed. Healthcare workers deserve our praise in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and so do biomedical researchers who work tirelessly in the race to create treatments and cures.
The reprioritization of research projects caused by COVID-19, as well as stay-at-home orders implemented to mitigate the spread of the disease, have led to the unfortunate, but necessary, decision by some health research organizations to place non-coronavirus projects on hold. These studies are also critical and the negative health impacts of these stoppages will be felt for years to come. This is because progress on identifying disease causes and testing possible therapies will be substantially delayed in several pressing biomedical research areas.
In certain situations, animals – mostly rodents – involved in these studies were humanely euthanized. These decisions were not taken lightly nor were the reasons behind them trivial. They often came in response to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) or the need to donate all available PPE to frontline regional health care providers treating COVID-19 patients. In other situations, these steps were taken to protect staff, their families, and others from unnecessary coronavirus exposure risks. It is important to remember that laboratory animals – again, mostly rodents – were euthanized not because they were deemed expendable, but rather because the extraordinary set of circumstances created by the pandemic required research institutions to immediately halt studies and implement COVID-19 emergency response plans. Euthanizing animals was the most humane thing to do in this situation.
Unfortunately, some organizations opposed to all research in animals have sought to capitalize on these difficult times by launching campaigns to disparage and harass the dedicated professionals we are all depending on to end this worldwide health challenge. These destructive actions and attitudes do not reflect the viewpoint of the majority of people. Most of us fully support the science community, just as we collectively applaud our frontline health care workers, public safety professionals and others who have reacted to the pandemic in heroic fashion.
We are confident our nations’ long-standing embrace of science and expertise will guide us through the darkness imposed by this tremendous health challenge. We offer our full support and admiration to our colleagues and friends working tirelessly in labs across the country to bring an end to this deadly health threat.
Americans for Medical Progress, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, Speaking of Research, and Understanding Animal Research have created resources to assist the research community to inform others about the urgent need for animal studies at all times, but especially to combat the current COVID-19 epidemic. Links to those resources can be found below.