Category Archives: News

Neuroscientists hit back at MEPs statement

The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) has responded to the recent European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals statement on the use of animals in neuroscience, which claimed that, ‘Animal testing is inherently uncertain and is a misleading indicator for human trials’.

In its own response statement FENS said: ‘The value of animal-based research for wide-reaching scientific and medical advances, including in neuroscience, cannot be overstated.’

The statement, also backed by EARA, EFPIA, GIRCOR, RSB, TVV and Wellcome, continued: ‘While there is an element of uncertainty in drug-related R&D, the use of animals in neuroscience research has undoubtedly contributed to our ever-improving understanding of the human brain and important advances in the treatment of neurological diseases.’

Italian convictions prompt calls for greater openness

Three Italian animal rights activists convicted of raiding the University of Milan animal labs have received a harsher sentence from the judge following their claim that they were acting on behalf of a ‘higher justice’ for animals.

Judge Vincenzina Greco gave the trio an 18-month sentences for the raid in 2013 (also English translation).

Commenting on the verdict, Giuliano Grignaschi, secretary-general of Research4Life, said: ‘Those who oppose research on animals don’t have the widespread social support they claim.’

Grignaschi and colleagues hope to bring Italian legislation closer in line with public support for biomedical research, by pushing for what he calls ‘a gradual approach’, starting with the publication of at least one webpage with information on the rationale and goals of the research on animals in each institution, the results obtained, and the numbers of animals used.

Nobel Prize awarded for turning the immune system against cancer

This year’s Nobel Prize winners for Physiology or Medicine used animal models to develop their novel cancer therapy.

James P. Allison, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA, and Tasuku Honjo, of Kyoto University, Japan, discovered in mice a way of unleashing immune cells to attack tumours by turning off the safeguards in the immune system that prevent it from attacking human tissue.

In turn, new drugs can now be developed offering hope to patients with advanced and previously untreatable cancer. Immune checkpoint therapy is already used to treat people with the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma.

Cancer kills millions of people each year and is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. By stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumour cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.

Professor Allison studied a known protein that functions as a ‘brake’ on the immune system, which normally protects the human body but can be taken advantage of by opportunist cancers. Allison realised the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumours. This concept was developed into an original and inventive approach for treating patients.

In parallel, Tasuku Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells and, after careful exploration of its function, eventually revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action. Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer.

Allison and Honjo showed how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer. The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer.

Accepting the prize, Prof. Honjo said: ‘I want to continue my research…so that this immune therapy will save more cancer patients than ever.’

Full list of speakers for EARA/FENS free event in Tübingen, Germany

Improving Openness and Animal Research in Germany – Free event, Monday, 22 October, FENS/EARA

The list of speakers for the free satellite event on communication on animal research has now been confirmed.

The event will discuss improving openness on animal research in communications with the general public, political decision makers and opinion formers in Germany.To attend please register here 

German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)
Otfried-Müller-Straße 23
72076 Tübingen

Kirk Leech, Executive Director, European Animal Research Association
Kirk is Executive Director of EARA, th communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical research and healthcare development across Europe. Previously Kirk worked for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and  Understanding Animal Research, the UK’s leading advocacy group on the use of animals in medical research.

Nancy Erickson, DVM, Animal Welfare Officer and Research Assistant, Freie Universität Berlin, and Member of Pro-Test Germany
Nancy studied Veterinary Medicine at the Freie Universität Berlin where she also obtained her Veterinary Pathologist degree and completed her Ph.D. thesis. As a Veterinarian, Animal Welfare Officer, and Researcher, she has been involved in several aspects of animal research. In her free time, she serves as member of Pro-Test Germany.

Dr. Andreas Lengeling, Animal Research & Welfare Officer, Max-Planck-Society
Andreas, studied Biology at the University of Bielefeld and is the new animal research and animal welfare officer of the Max-Planck Society. He is responsible for the implementation of the society’s recent white paper on animal research. His role involves the support of 30 Max-Planck Institutes in all aspects of animal experimentation, which carry out life sciences in the society.

Volker Stollorz, Science Media Center, Germany
Volker studied biology and philosophy at the University of Cologne and in 2015, became the founding CEO of the Science Media Center, a non-for profit organization that helps journalists find scientific expertise when science hits the headlines.


Wendy Jarrett, Executive Director, Understanding Animal Research
Wendy has focused her career on science and health communication over the last three decades. Her work includes extensive campaigns across Europe on the need for animals in the research process, as well awareness programs educating people about disease risk factors and intervention opportunities. Wendy sits on the Board of the European Animal Research Association (EARA) and is a member of the UK’s Animals in Science Committee. Since November 2012 she has led the development of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK.

There is now greater openness in the public debate over animal research in many European countries and institutions. Progress has also been made in Germany by the research community to engage with the public on the issue of animal research, for example in the creation of Tierversuche-Verstehen, and the publication of the White Paper from the Max Planck Society on its animal research.

However, there is still significant reluctance within many academic institutions, and amongst scientists, towards conducting a more open and consistent dialogue with the public. Many scientists are still afraid that speaking more openly will make them targets, while others lack the confidence to put the case for animal research to what they view as a potentially hostile media and sceptical public.

This workshop, designed for members of the biomedical sector, is to help researchers and institutions that wish to be more open about the animal research they carry out. The event will have a clear focus: why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders can and should talk about animal research.

This is not going to be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation. This discussion is for members of institutions that are either directly, or indirectly, involved in animal research and are currently hesitant to speak out in the media or to participate in public engagement activities. We hope that this and similar regional workshops will help kick-start a cultural change within Germany on this issue.

EARA looks ahead with strategic objectives for next five years

EARA has set out the association’s vision and mission and its strategic objectives up until to 2023, following its General Assembly in Munich, Germany.

The Strategic Review looks at the background to EARA’s founding in 2014 and its achievements. The association now has more than 70 member organisations from private and public research as well as professional bodies across 15 countries in Europe.

EARA was founded following recognition of the need to develop, establish and implement proactive communication strategies to improve public understanding and acceptability of animal research, and to help co-ordinate the sector to speak with a unified voice to decision makers in Brussels and with the national advocacy organisations.

Among EARA’s achievements are the forming of formal and informal networks, particularly in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain, engagement with the EU on regulation and consultation, a social media presence in seven languages and support for the supply chain in Europe.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “EARA has come a long way in a short time, but there is still much more to do and our core objectives for the next five years will help us stay on track to raise awareness of the important work being done in the life sciences across Europe.”.

EARA has now reiterated its vision and mission statements:

Our vision is that the understanding and recognition of the importance and benefits of research involving animals across Europe is acknowledged by a significant majority of society, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient and dispassionate climate for research.

Our mission is to become the leading European voice for the life sciences sector (academic institutions, associations and industry) that use animals in research for human, animal and environmental benefit. EARA will provide a European platform for public and other external stakeholders to be informed and learn about animal research, its benefits and limitations.

To meet the ambitions of its vision and mission statements and to reach its key audiences EARA has now identified five core strategy objectives for the next five years.

• Adapt the existing framework of policies, practices, procedures, and responsibilities for the effective management of EARA and manage the association’s growth through the creation of a new governance structure.
• To represent the European life sciences sector at EU institutions and at European national authority level
• To improve public awareness and acceptance of the importance of the use of animals for biomedical research for human, animal and environmental benefit.
• To facilitate choice and sustainability in the supply chain for animal research
• To ensure the expansion of the EARA network across Europe. To assist in the formation of national advocacy networks.

Largest robotic surgical training centre in the world opens in Belgium

Orsi Academy, the largest robotically assisted training centre found anywhere in the world has opened its new campus in Melle, Belgium.

The EARA member company trains more than 700 surgeons each year in minimal invasive techniques developed to reduce pain, blood loss and time of recovery in humans after an operation.

Every surgeon starts training on a simulator, then using chicken and dog cadavers and lastly on live pigs that has been anesthetised.

Orsi CEO, Prof. Dr. Alexandre Mottrie said: “Robotic surgery is only at the beginning and it will evolve in the future and we want to be in the middle of this wave.”

The Academy works in close co-operation with the University of Ghent and KU Leuven and also has a structural partnership with Karolinska University Hospital








The Times opinion piece: ‘Mob rule by animal rights activists cannot be allowed to stop research’

A leader column in The Times newspaper has called on governments across the world to require airlines to carry animals used for research.

The newspaper was commenting on an article it ran on the formal complaint to the US Department of Transportation by the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), which has accused four airlines operating in the USA, of discrimination by refusing to carry animals for use in medical research when the same animals can be carried as pets, farm animals or for zoos.

In its complaint NABR said British Airways, China Southern, Qatar Airways and United Airlines must comply with federal laws and that their failure to transport research animals ‘will slow down the progress of essential and life-saving biomedical research that is necessary for drugs, treatments, cures and the prevention of disease’.

The opinion piece says: “When should a government be able to tell a privately run airline what it should and should not carry? A good answer is: when lives are at stake. On this basis passengers are barred from taking knives and guns on board civilian aircraft. There is a similar argument to be made in favour of airlines carrying animals bred for scientific research. This research saves lives.”

British Airways accused of breaking U.S. federal law by refusing to carry animals intended for research, in official complaint by biomedical sector

The U.S. National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), has accused four airlines operating in the USA, including British Airways, of discrimination by refusing to carry animals for use in medical research when the same animals can be carried as pets, farm animals or for zoos.

In a formal complaint to the Department of Transportation by NABR, the association has said British Airways, China Southern, Qatar Airways and United Airlines should comply with federal laws and that the failure to transport research animals ‘will slow down the progress of essential and life-saving biomedical research that is necessary for drugs, treatments, cures and the prevention of disease’.

Read the articles in The Times: Article Opinion

NABR, which represents 360 U.S. public and private organisations, also states in its formal complaint that the airlines’ actions violate federal laws, ‘including ones that prohibit unreasonable discrimination and that require airlines to impose reasonable conditions on transport of these animals’.

The biomedical research sector faces a crisis caused by the refusal by most major commercial airlines to carry animals intended for research purposes, not as a result of transport or safety-related concerns, but because airlines wish to avoid criticism from animal activist groups.

Commenting on the complaint, Kirk Leech, the Executive Director of the European Animal Research Association (EARA), said: “Without the ability to move research models from one country to another, or from breeder to research institution, crucial scientific research seeking new treatments could come to a halt.

“It takes a long time to breed these animals, and if their transport is stopped then researchers will have to recreate breeding colonies, requiring the unnecessary use of many more animals over successive generations.”

Further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801


Notes to editors

Most of the medicines we have come from animal research. Often science doesn’t need to use animals, but for many key questions they are crucial. They will help millions with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord damage and parasitic infections like malaria. There are three main reasons why animals are used in research:

  • To advance scientific understanding,
  • To develop solutions to medical problems,
  • To test medicines and vaccines in order to protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.

Animals are used when there is a need to find out what happens in the whole living body, which is far more complex than the sum of its parts. It is very difficult, and in most cases simply not yet possible, to develop non-animal methods to replace the use of living animals.

About EARA
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information.  It also takes responsibility for the choice and sustainability in the global transport of animals for medical research. It has more than 60 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 14 European countries.

EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe

About NABR
Founded in 1979, the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) provides the unified voice for the U.S. scientific community on legislative and regulatory matters affecting laboratory animal research. NABR works to safeguard the future of biomedical research on behalf of its more than 350 public and private universities, medical and veterinary schools, teaching hospitals, voluntary health agencies, professional societies, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and other animal research-related firms

Survey reveals great progress made by biomedical research sector in Spain to be more open about animal research

The first report on the Spanish biomedical sector’s commitment to be more transparent about its research using animals, published today, has highlighted the great progress being made to improve openness.

Launched in 2016, the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain, (‘Acuerdo de transparencia sobre el uso de animales en experimentación científica en España’) now has more than 120 public and private research centres, universities and scientific societies as signatories. It contains four commitments for research centres in Spain to provide more information about animal research at their institutions.

1/ Speak with clarity about when, how and why animals are used in investigation.
2/Provide adequate information to the media and the general public about the conditions under which research using animals is carried out and the results obtained from them.
3/ Develop initiatives that improve knowledge and understanding by society about the use of animals in scientific research.
4/Report annually on progress and share experiences.

The report, (in Spanish) launched today at the Student Residence of the CSIC, in Madrid, assessing the development of the fourth commitment has been carried out by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), in partnership with the Spanish Society for Laboratory Animal Sciences (SECAL), a member of both the Spanish Confederation of Scientific Societies (COSCE) and EARA.

One of the most important aspects of the Agreement has been the creation of a declaration on their website by the vast majority of organisations (95%) explaining the institutional policy on the use of animals.

EARA Board member, Javier Guillén, said: “The appearance of these institutional declarations has been one of the clearest and most visible examples of the decision of the signatory organisations for transparency.”

Lluís Montoliu, a member of the COSCE commission, added: “The survey results show that great progress has been made to disseminate information on the use of animals in science. It is very pleasing to see that an increasing number of institutions are not only openly declaring their use of animals, but also prepared to explain publicly the benefits of this research for society.”

Other findings from the survey were:
It was encouraging to see that almost all the respondents said that they had experienced no significant barriers in providing information to the media and the general public on the conditions in which research is carried out using animals.
Increased recognition by the signatories (87% of respondents) of the value of raising public awareness of animal research through events, tours and presentations.
The most common method of communication (79% of respondents) is the publication of news about scientific advances which relates to animal research.
A growing number of institutions (42% of respondents) believe that the Agreement has already had an impact on society in general.
Almost two thirds of survey respondents (63% of respondents) still do not have a policy of mentioning the use of animal models in research in the institutions press releases.

In addition, several examples of transparency activities promoted by the Agreement have been collected, such as visits by students or journalists to animal research facilities and other media reporting and are included throughout the Report – half the institutions also reported that they had taken part in science festivals.

Nevertheless, the report also showed that while great progress has been made to improve communications both internally and externally this activity is still at an early stage, as not all institutions have begun to carry out transparency activities beyond the institutional declarations.

See also El Pais: Labs that experiment with animals start to lift veil of secrecy

Images from the Applied Biomedical Experimental Research (CREBA) in Lleida.


Notes to editors

About EARA
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information. It also takes responsibility for the choice and sustainability in the global transport of animals for medical research. It has more than 70 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 14 European countries.
EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe

The Confederation of Scientific Societies of Spain is the result an initiative in begun in 2003 and brings together 82 scientific societies representing more than 40,000 members. The purpose of COSCE, are to contribute to the scientific and technological development of Spain; advocate on issues that affect science and promote the role of science and contribute to its dissemination.

Case study examples of openness

Visits of journalists to the National Biotechnology Center
After launching the COSCE agreement for transparency in animal experimentation, there were media requests from LaSextaTV and El Mundo to visit the facilities of the National Biotechnology Center (CNB-CSIC) in Madrid. With the authorisation of the head of animal welfare at the center, Ángel Naranjo, who facilitated the access of the journalists to the animal center, the researcher Lluís Montoliu showed various areas where the mice, used in research as animal models of diseases, are housed. For example, the editors and news cameras of LaSextaTV were permitted to stay as long as they needed, ask the questions they wanted and visit every area, while maintaining the criteria of security and protection of the animals housed there.
El Mundo

Visit and practices of students of the UCM and UAX in the Animation Service of CIEMAT
In the spring of 2018 several groups of students of the Complutense University of Madrid (Faculty of Biology) and Alfonso X University (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine) visited the facilities of CIEMAT and had their first contact with animal research. Jesús Martínez, Head of Animal Welfare at CIEMAT said: “In these visits – the response of students, who are closely linked to the world of scientific research for their studies – was striking, when they were shown the high standards of accommodation, welfare, supervision and control of research animals in our facilities. I think that for the students it is a very interesting and clarifying experience to dispel preconceived ideas.”

Visits and training at the Applied Biomedical Experimental Research Center (CREBA)
At the Center for Applied Biomedical Experimental Research (CREBA) in Lleida, visits are frequently made with schoolchildren, university students, and groups of professionals. In recent months students have been received from the Lestonnac school in Lleida, the Alfred Potrony de Térmens (Lleida), the agricultural school of Vallfogona de Balaguer (Lleida) and the Medical Facility of this province. They have also received a group of members of the Official College of Nursing.

In all the visits there is a presentation on the use of animals in research and training – particularly the research at CREBA. The stabling area is shown through cameras in real time. Then a visit to the surgical block is carried out, explaining the usefulness of each area and equipment. “The experience is very enriching for both parties. For students and teachers, because they enter a world that they have never had access to, and that helps them to begin to understand the information they receive from other sources, and for CREBA staff, because it gives us the opportunity to explain our work and to shift the opinions of young people”, says Dolores García Olmo, Technical Director of CREBA.

Belgian scientists hit back at ‘Nazi’ slur in one-sided media reporting

Belgian researchers have countered an uncritical feature interview with animal rights activists who repeated factual inaccuracies about animal research and likened scientists to Nazis.

In response to the pieces in De Morgen and Humo (both in Flemish) the scientists refuted the claims that animal experiments are unreliable, that computer simulations and artificial intelligence are fully-fledged alternatives, that scientists just “do what they want” and that animal experiments are of no use (an attack on basic research).
Full translation of Humo article

“Presenting researchers as Nazis is all too easy when we all reap the benefits of modern medicine,”  said an article signed by Professor Rufin Vogels (KU Leuven), Professor Wim Van Duffel (KU Leuven and Harvard Medical School) and the animal research portal Infopunt Proefdieronderzoek (IPPO).

The response is as follows:

I and a number of colleagues are disappointed that for the second month in a row De Morgen forms a platform for the dissemination of incorrect information about animal testing. This time on the basis of an interview from Humo with three animal activists. Animal welfare is of course an important topic, but it is unfortunate that these three are given the opportunity to make statements about the context in which and the reasons for animal testing in Flanders, without making any comments.

Myths about animal testing
(or if you want to use a quote, possibly “Explaining researchers as Nazis is too easy when we all reap the benefits of modern medicine.”)

In a conversation with three animal activists yesterday in De Morgen and earlier in Humo, in addition to veganism, animal experiments were inevitably also involved. Ann De Greef (GAIA), Benoit Van den Broeck (Animal Rights) and Benjamin Loison (Bite Back) are against. That can not surprise anyone and it is also their right. That they thereby get such a broad platform to send wrong information to the world, we want to rectify this.

Myth 1: Animal experiments are unreliable

Wrong! An animal is only a model, but the same applies to cells in a Petri dish. Scientists try to make the leap from model to man as small as possible.
That is why it is also important to use the right animal or the right animal-free method to investigate a certain aspect of how our body works. In genetics, for example, fruit flies are often used, while behavior and memory are often examined in mice or rats or, if not possible, in monkeys. Less complex interactions can then be studied in cell cultures derived from human tissue.

Myth 2: Computer simulations and artificial intelligence are full-fledged alternatives

Too bad, but unfortunately not true. A computer simulation is only as good as the data you put into it. We can reliably simulate biological systems that we fully understand with the computer. For example, we can already make a lot of predictions about how they react with certain tissues for chemical substances based on their structure. But if we want to discover how our brains work, how our organs develop or why someone gets cancer, then we can not find the answer in a computer.

Myth 3: Scientists “do what they want”

Not at all the case! Test animal research is very strictly regulated, and also good. Each test must be approved by an ethics committee, which also includes animal welfare experts and ethicists. If there are alternatives, then scientists are obliged to use them, and they also do so.

Myth 4: Animal experiments are of no use

That fundamental research into how the brain works has not yet resulted in a pill against Alzheimer’s disease, means for Ann De Greef that we should better stop it. But four out of five of the most groundbreaking new drugs from the past decades stem from this type of basic research, with animal tests, among other things.

These arguments have been refuted so many times, but they continue to pop up. It does not help the debate, and certainly the laboratory animals, one meter ahead.

Explaining researchers as Nazis is too easy when we all reap the benefits of modern medicine. Scientists also love animals, as well as among non-scientists, vegetarians and vegans can be found back. Yet they realize all too well that animal testing is still necessary to answer biomedical questions and so offer hope to people who are incurably ill.

Suggesting that conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease could be prevented simply by avoiding red meat and dairy products, is so short-legged that it is almost irresponsible to put it in the newspaper. In any case, it shows that the activists do not take their own advice-orphan critically for yourself.

Professor Rufin Vogels (KU Leuven), Professor Wim Van Duffel (KU Leuven and Harvard Medical School) and Infopunt Proefdieronderzoek (IPPO).

See the response in Flemish