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Improving openness in animal research in Germany – watch the videos

The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) together with the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), last year kindly agreed to support an initiative by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) to raise awareness on the need for greater openness and transparency in communication about the use of animals in research among the neuroscience community in Germany.

The first of three events entitled Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany, was held at the Max Delbrück Center, Berlin, (MDC) on Thursday, 12 July, 2018, and each of the four speaker’s presentations, plus the panel discussion afterwards was filmed and is featured below.

EARA devised the events with the aim of helping researchers and institutions that wished to be more open about the animal research they carry out. The intention was not to debate the ethics of animal research, but rather to invite a variety of speakers (researchers, policy, media) to make the argument for the need for greater openness in communication about animal research.

About the speakers
The four main speakers in Berlin were:

  • Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director
  • Dr. Andreas Lengeling, Animal Research & Welfare Officer, at the Max Planck Society (MPS)
  • Volker Stollorz, CEO of the Science Media Center, Germany
  • Dr.Thomas Kammertöns, Institute of Immunology, Charité University Medical Centre, Berlin

EARA pinpoints potential problems for transport of animals in a no-deal Brexit

EARA has highlighted the issues that could affect the efficient transportation of animals and animal related products used for research if there is a no-deal Brexit.

The submission to the UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee inquiry on Brexit, Science and Innovation: preparations for a no-deal by the EARA Brexit Taskforce, examined the import and export to and from the UK, of purpose-bred research animals, biological samples from research animals (blood, tissues, organs, embryos), medical and pharmaceutical supplies, plus supplies of specialised animal feed and research diets.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech said: “Our main concern is that any logistical problems with transport and processing times, arising from lack of preparation for a no-deal Brexit, will have a negative effect on scientific investigation and animal welfare.”

Among the issues raised were:

• The Department of the Environment Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) would need significant new resourcing to enable the new checks required for entry into the UK, through Border Inspection Posts, for animals and biological samples transiting through the EU from outside the EU.
• In a no-deal scenario, exports of biological samples would require compliance with customs formalities and export health certificates (EHCs) for each individual shipment for all animal species. And as a third party to the EU, the UK will need to negotiate the content of each certificate separately with every member state.
• New process requirements will also be needed for the import of pathogen-free eggs for vaccine manufacture.

Among the recommedations made in the submission, the Taskforce said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK should cease applying stricter EU measures requiring the issuance of import permits for CITES Appendix II species, which include monkeys.

There was also concern that DEFRA does not have the resources to cope with the demand for Export Health Certficates (EHCs) and CITES permits.

End

Notes to editors
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) has brought together a group of organisations under a Brexit Taskforce, that supports and represents the interests of European biomedical research using animals. The Taskforce comprises the following organisations: EARA, AnimalHealth Europe, Charles River Laboratories, Covance, Ellegaard Göttingen Minipigs, Envigo, GSK, Marshall BioResources, Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK National Office of Animal Health and Understanding Animal Research.

About EARA
The European Animal Research Association (EARA), is a pan-European organisation that communicates and advocates in support of biomedical research using animals, by providing accurate and evidence-based information. We aim to educate the public on the benefits of animal research, partner with research stakeholders, and promote the creation and development of national networks. EARA was created by academic institutions, associations and the life science industry to provide a European platform for the public and other external stakeholders to be informed and learn about animal research, its benefits and its limitations.

The first ten years of the UK’s Understanding Animal Research

by UAR Chief Executive Wendy Jarrett

Understanding Animal Research (UAR) reached its tenth birthday on 1 January 2019 and we have been engaging and informing people about how and why animals are used in research for a decade. So we thought that it would be a good time to have a look back at some of the highlights of the past decade and remind ourselves of how UAR came about and what it has achieved so far.

UAR has inherited the DNA of two parent UK organisations – the Research Defence Society (RDS) and the Coalition for Medical Progress (CMP). RDS was founded by Stephen Paget in January 1908 as a response to the rising profile of organisations opposed to the use of animals in research, primarily the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV, now known as Cruelty Free International). The group that became NAVS had been founded by Frances Power Cobbe in 1875 and had influenced some of the provisions in the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act. Power Cobbe also set up the BUAV in 1898 having become disenchanted with the direction NAVS was taking.

Over the following century, RDS provided support to scientists using animals in their research. This involved arguing against legislation to restrict or ban certain areas of animal use and in some cases raising funds to support researchers in legal actions. Following the death of its founder in 1926, RDS set up the annual Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture in 1927. For the 100 years of its existence the RDS consistently advocated for the continued use of animals in research, often in the face of extremist activity by animal rights protestors.

In 2003, the Coalition for Medical Progress was launched, in the UK, with the objective of reaching the general public with information about how animal research had contributed to their medicines, their medical procedures and the treatments available to their pets and livestock. CMP produced leaflets for distribution through GP surgeries, organised access for BBC News crews to film in animal facilities and placed articles in media outlets linking animal research with patient benefits.

By early 2008 many of the funders of both RDS and CMP were asking whether two separate organisations were still necessary, and whether the work of both could not be done by a single, new entity. Wider consultation with the members of RDS and CMP and other major stakeholders led to the decision to merge. Representatives of the CMP Board and RDS Council met regularly over the summer and autumn of 2008 to agree the legal details of ‘NewOrg’ as it was called for several months. A large workshop was held at the Wellcome Trust with all the people who had an interest in what ‘NewOrg’ would be called, what its objectives would be and the ‘look and feel’ of its identity.

Voting on a number of potential names for the new organisation led to the selection of ‘Understanding Animal Research’. All agreed that the new name needed to ‘say on the tin what it did’, in a way that neither RDS nor CMP had done. The word ‘understanding’ was also felt to be important: this new body would not be trying to encourage people to like animal research, the objective would be helping them to understand it. (Another criterion for picking a new name had also been that it would not be shortened to a three-letter acronym in the way that RDS and CMP had been. But two out of three isn’t bad!)

We also worked to develop a new logo, website and brand identity for UAR that would set it apart from its predecessors. Again, it was agreed that an animal should be included in the logo along with the name, helping to demonstrate clearly what UAR was all about.

After six months of meetings, consultations, design briefs and website development, the bank accounts were merged on 31st December 2008 and UAR officially came into being on 1st January 2009. Since then we have consistently worked towards improving public understanding of why and how animals are used in research.

Future articles on our website will cover the development of the Concordat; setting up the European Animal Research Association; our project to provide information about animal research to UK vet students; our policy and lobbying work; creating Labanimaltour.org and ten years of speaking with young people in schools, among many other projects.

Reprinted from the UAR website

EARA is recruiting for a Communications Officer

EARA COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

  • Contract: Permanent, full-time (35 hours a week)
  • Salary: Up to £32,000, depending on experience
  • Benefits: 25 days paid holiday per year, employer contribution to pension
  • Located: Central London
  • Reports to: EARA Communications and Media Manager
  • Applications sent to Kirk Leech kleech@eara.eu

European Animal Research Association (EARA)

EARA is a communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical research and healthcare development, in the use of animals for research. EARA provides a platform, across Europe, for the public and other external stakeholders to be informed and learn about the role of animals in scientific research and the benefits and limitations. Being a European-wide membership organisation, EARA also encourages the creation and development of national networks of stakeholders and improves the co-ordination between them.

Principal duties:

Under the management of the EARA Communications and Media Manager, the principal duties will include:
Social media: Generate ideas, opportunities and content to highlight EARA’s work, ethos and areas of concern to its target audiences via EARA’s social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube).
Website: Assist in the commissioning, writing and editing of the EARA website, the weekly EARA News Digest and the quarterly Partner Newsletter.
Media: Assist in responding to media enquiries, contribute to press releases and briefings as appropriate, conduct daily media monitoring, assist with the production of promotional materials.
Contact database: Maintain EARA’s Customer Relationship Management database.

Other duties:

Undertake other reasonable tasks, associated with a membership association, as required.

Person Specifications

 Required experience:

  • Experience of science communications, media relations, social media for business and website administration
  • Preferably an academic background in life sciences or science communications.
  • An understanding of the scientific, ethical and moral justification for animal research.
  • Excellent communication skills in English, both written and verbal.
  • Ability to work under pressure, meet deadlines, prioritise workload and maximise the use of time.

Additional desirable requirements:

Written and/or verbal competency in another European language
To be able to work occasional evenings and weekends
Willing to undertake occasional travel in Europe
Relationship Management database experience
Familiarity with the use of graphics and tools such as Photoshop, Canva etc.

Application Process:

Please email your CV and an accompanying cover letter explaining how you meet the person specification to kleech@eara.eu with the subject heading ‘EARA Communications Officer’. Please also give an indication of when you would be available to start work.

The application deadline is Thursday, 14 February, 17.00pm GMT.

Only successful applicants will be contacted.

Germany statistics on 2017 animal use released

The total number of animals used in research in 2017 in Germany was 2.8 million, a similar level to 2015 and 2016, the latest figures reveal.

Germany is second only to the UK in its use of animals – in 2014, the total used was 3.3 million.

The figures, sent to the European Commission, show the vast majority of animals involved in the tests were rodents – 1.37 million mice and 255,000 rats.

Among other figures provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, 3,300 dogs and 718 cats were also used. 

German media focused (and in German) also on the rise in experiments using monkeys – up to 3,472 from 2,462 in the previous year.

Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, was quoted as saying: “I want the number of experiments on animals to be continuously reduced. Animals are fellow creatures and they deserve our sympathy.”

Basic research: ‘as necessary as human curiosity’ says brain scientist

A leading brain scientist has made a passionate argument for basic research at a packed event, hosted by EARA, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, this week (17 December 2018).

Prof. Dr. Gilles Laurent, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (MPI), said: “I do research to find out how the brain works. It’s part of human activity and curiosity and it’s a motivation to conduct science that I believe holds on its own.”

Reflecting on his own work with reptiles, rodents and cephalopods, Laurent compared current extent of human knowledge of the brain to an ant’s grasp of chemistry.

The Professor’s talk (pictured) was the third event in EARA’s Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany series, supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).


Prof Dr. Gilles Laurent, of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt

Opening the event, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech, explained how the tactics and actions of activists in Germany had drastically altered in the last 10 years.

“The landscape has changed significantly. There is no longer violent activism in Germany, now the challenge is more mainstream.”

Thanks to a more open environment to discuss animal research it has been possible to turn the tables on the activists by simply stating the facts about how scientists work: “The same images that activists use to criticise animal research are now shown on university websites, but with better explanations that puts the research into context.”

Kirk also previewed the results from EARA’s institutional openness study, which analyses websites in Germany to assess how open they are about animal research, noting the missed opportunities of many German institutions to share information about their animal research with the wider public.

Also speaking at the event were Dr. Andreas Lengeling, of the Max-Planck-Society (MPS), Volker Stollorz of the Science Media Center, Germany, and Dr. Regina Oehler, a science editor at the Hessischer Rundfunk since 1985.

Dr Lengeling explained how MPS had worked to improve on the transparency of its animal research and to speak in non-technical language to the public.

Returning to the point that Prof Laurent had made, he said there were two main things to remember about openness: “It’s important for scientists to not make exaggerated promises in their research and they should emphasise the importance of the long-term acquisition of knowledge in basic research using animals.”

Volker Stollorz told the audience there were real benefit from being open and transparent.

“You should communicate proactively, be open about what you do and allow visits to your labs,” he said.

But researchers needed to be honest with themselves and acknowledge that there are still ‘real ethical conflicts inside science’.

“We have to be honest and not pretend everything is easy about animal research. That includes talking about the potential harms and suffering of animals.”

End

See also the other Openness events in Germany in 2018 Berlin and Tübingen.

Speakers announced for free EARA event in Frankfurt

A full list of speakers is now available for the next in a series of science communications events to be held at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, in Frankfurt am Main, on 17 December..

The free event (register here) will discuss improving openness and communications with the general public, political decision makers and opinion formers.

Hosted by EARA and supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience, the event is entitled, Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany.

The event will focus on why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders should talk about animal research, but it will not be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation.

The speakers are:
– Prof. Dr. Gilles Laurent, Director, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (MPI)
– Kirk Leech, European Animal Research Association
– Dr. Andreas Lengeling, Max-Planck-Society
– Volker Stollorz, Science Media Center, Germany
– Moderator: Dr. Emily Northrup is the Head of the Animal Facility of the (MPI)

This will be followed by a panel discussion where they will be joined by Dr. Regina Oehler, a science editor at the Hessischer Rundfunk since 1985.

Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany.
Monday 17 December 2018
14:00 – 17:00
(Registration begins at 13:30)
Max Planck Institute for Brain Research
Max-von-Laue-Str. 4
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Germany

Top ten UK universities for animal research announced

 A list of the ten UK universities that conduct the highest number of animal procedures has been published by Understanding Animal Research (UAR).

The statistics have been gathered from figures found on the universities’ websites as part of their ongoing commitment to transparency and openness.

The ten institutions collectively conducted over one third of all UK animal research in 2017 all have signed up to the Concordat on Openness on Animals Research.

The top three in the list are University of Oxford (236,429 procedures), University of Edinburgh (225,366) and University College London (214,570).

Wendy Jarrett, chief executive of UAR, said: “The Concordat has fostered a culture of openness at research institutions up and down the UK.

“Almost two-thirds of the university Concordat signatories provide their animal numbers openly on their websites – accounting for almost 90% of all animal research at UK universities.“

End

Spanish animal 2017 statistics shows drop in procedures

New figures released by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, show an overall decrease in the use of animals in biomedical research last year.

According to the official government website (in Spanish), in 2017 there were a total of 802,976 procedures involving animals, which compares to 917,986 in 2016, .

Overall this reflects a significant drop, equivalent to one-eighth of the 2016 total number, including almost halving of the number of times fish were used (from 168,746 to 85,687).

The statistics, made available annually in compliance with European law, demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Spanish biomedical sector to working responsibly with animals used for research.

Particular trends show a reduction in the number of procedures on mice, rats, pigs and, especially cephalopods⸺down from 8444 to 20. More procedures on cats (531) and dogs (1476) occurred in 2017 than in the previous year. This overall downward trend countered the way the number of procedures in Spain had previously been increasing since 2014.

Commenting on the figures, Lluis Montoliu of the National Centre for Biotechnology, Spaintweeted: ‘It must be remembered … that the use of dogs is still indispensable in the preclinical validation of innovative gene therapy treatments for diseases and that the use of non-human primates is equally essential in certain pathologies that affect us.’

End

Remaining silent about the use of animals in research is a greater risk than speaking out, German audience is told

An event on communication in animal research in Germany this week has called on more scientists to step forward and raise awareness.

Attended by more than 80 members of the biomedical community, a panel of experts from research, animal welfare and the science media came together to discuss the topic, Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany, at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), in Tübingen. The event was supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

Setting the scene, EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said that while progress had been made in Germany on communication there is still a significant reluctance within many academic institutions, and amongst scientists, towards conducting a more open and consistent dialogue with the public.

‘If you are in public research you have to expect that the general public will take an interest in what you do,’ he added.

Expanding on the theme, Nancy Erickson (pictured), qualified vet and animal welfare officer at, Freie Universität Berlin, and a member of animal research awareness group Pro-Test Germany, reminded the audience that: ‘By remaining silent we do create a space for misconceptions about animal research.

‘If you are only communicating in a defensive mode then you are in a difficult situation. When you are proactive you can use the quiet times to build trust with the public.’ Continue reading