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Great Britain’s biomedical research statistics for 2017 indicate fewer animals used for second consecutive year

The latest figures released by the Home Office show a decrease in the overall use of animals in biomedical research in Great Britain’s public and private institutions.

These statistics for 2017 were presented to the UK Parliament under the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and demonstrate the continuing commitment of the British biomedical sector to openness and transparency about animal research, combined with an ongoing commitment to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for every project, commonly known as the 3Rs.

The figures show that 3,789,373 experimental procedures were conducted in Great Britain [1] in 2017, 3.7% fewer than in 2016. Over 96% of the procedures on animals involved mice, fish, rats and birds while cats, dogs and non-human primates accounted for less than 0.2% of studies.

There was a significant fall in the number of procedures on dogs (3847 procedures) and on primates (2960 procedures), the lowest number for over 40 years for both species.

Half of all procedures were the creation or breeding of genetically altered (GA) animals that were not used in further experiments – these fell by 1%. Meanwhile the number of experimental procedures fell by 7%. Experimental procedures include basic and applied research, and regulatory studies aimed at making ensuring product safety.

Commenting on the figures, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech said: “Behind each statistic is the story of basic research, of work towards combating disease and of improvements in medicine both for humans and animals.

“More and more institutions are openly publishing their own figures on their websites. This move towards greater transparency has been bolstered by the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, which has been signed by 120 organisations since it launched in 2014. And now we are seeing transparency agreements reached across Europe, in countries such as Spain and Portugal.”

No animals were used for testing cosmetics or their ingredients as this has been illegal in the UK since 1998.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Senior Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute, said: “GA animals are extremely valuable for exploring basic mechanisms of biology, increased understanding of which can lead to better treatments or cures for diseases and for better welfare and quality of life for humans and animals. Once generated, stocks of GA animals need to be maintained by breeding.

“Despite breeding being of no harm for the animals, indeed it is a normal activity that they likely enjoy, this has to be counted as a procedure under the Act. This greatly inflates the number of GA animals that appear in the annual stats, with often very few of them being used for any additional, perhaps invasive procedure.”

The full statistics are available here, at http://eara.eu/en/animal-research/statistics/

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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 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.

[1] The figures are for Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) excluding Northern Ireland.

Take responsibility and speak up on animal research in Germany, scientists are urged at EARA event

The German biomedical community has been urged at an EARA event in Berlin, to communicate more to the public, talk about values and explain why animal research is important, not just use ‘facts and figures’.

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 Max Delbrück Center, Berlin, (MDC) in an event supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience.

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.

The sector needed to redress the balance by talking more about animal research. ‘The public hears the voice of animal activists in one ear and then nothing from the biomedical sector in the other ear,” he said.

Dr. Andreas Lengeling, animal research & welfare officer, Max Planck Society, explained how the Society developed a ‘4th R: responsibility’ for animal research, in addition to the 3Rs (replace, refine, reduce). The Society had also produced a White Paper setting out in detail its approach to animal research.

“Explaining your own ethical reasoning is something we have found is important for scientists,” he added.

Volker Stollorz, of the German Science Media Centre, then illustrated how damaging a reluctance to talk could be and the need to realise that science cannot hide from discussing its research.

He encouraged the audience to, “talk about your values not just facts and figures and spell out what animals you use.”

Finally Dr. Thomas Kammertoens, of MDC, spoke of the responsibilities of scientists and researchers to consider communication as an important aspect of their work and not to take for granted that others understood its importance to medical research.

“The responsibilities of a publicly-funded scientist is to do good science, teach and communicate our work.”

A further two events to discuss this topic will be held in Germany this year; in Tübingen on 22 October and in Frankfurt am Main on 17 December 2018. More details will follow.

Dutch Parliament backs primate research

In response to calls to reduce the number of experiments with non-human primates (NHP) by up to 40% in the Netherlands the Dutch Parliament has now reached a compromise.

In two motions, the parliament acknowledged the importance of animal research (including NHP) for scientific and medical progress and has stated that the 40% reduction should relate to commercial research, a goal supported by the Biomedical Primate Research Center, which has been the focus of these controversial proposals.

In addition, responding to calls that NHP research should be centralised in the Netherlands, the Parliament said that this should only be done if the facilities agreed to the proposal themselves.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “It is good to see that the Dutch Parliament has recognised the value of primate research in the country and is working with the sector to adopt proposals that are workable”

Switzerland’s 2017 animal research statistics indicate fewer animals used

The latest figures released by the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office (BLV) show a decrease in the overall use of animals in biomedical research in the Switzerland’s public and private institutions.

These statistics for 2017 are made available in compliance with Swiss law and demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Swiss biomedical sector to openness and transparency about animal research, combined with an ongoing commitment to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for every project, commonly known as the 3Rs.

In particular, the figures show a reduction in the number of mice used and a 19% increase in the number of fish used. Within the overall biomedical sector, three categories – disease diagnosis, education and training, and environmental, including human and veterinary protection – show a significant increase in procedures carried out using animals. There was a decrease in the use of animals in the basic research and discovery, development and quality control categories.

SGV (Swiss Laboratory Animal Science Association) president Birgit Ledermann said: “The use of animals is essential for biomedical research into diseases such as cancer, dementia and for vaccines. Many of the cures and treatments we use today for conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy, were made possible through the use of animals.”

Commenting on the figures, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech said: “The publication of these figures shows that biomedical researchers in Switzerland are completely open about their numbers. Behind each statistic is the story of basic research, of work towards combating disease and of improvements in medicine both for humans and animals.”

For detailed graphs and reports go to http://eara.eu/en/animal-research/statistics/

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Agreement on transparency in animal research launched in Portugal

The public announcement of the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Portugal
will take place today (21 June 2018).

This initiative presented by the scientist Nuno Sousa has been proposed by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) and supported by the Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL) and is supported by 16 Portuguese institutions, from across the country, that use animals in biomedical and basic research.

The aim of the Transparency Agreement is to improve the Portuguese public’s understanding
and acceptability of animal research by promoting openness and transparency. The signatories
agreed to be more open and consistent with the public on their communication about the scientific, ethical and moral justifications for animal research.

This approach is based on the Transparency Agreement in Spain, launched in 2016, where
EARA co-operated with the Federation of Spanish Scientific Societies (COSCE) and the UK
Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.

Kirk Leech, of EARA, said: “This Transparency Agreement is a significant step forward for the
biomedical sector in Portugal. It will set high standards for openness and lead to a greater
understanding among the general public of the benefits of animal research, including the
contribution it makes to the studies of cancer and diseases of the brain.

“We also expect that most institutions in Portugal, that conduct animal research will eventually join the Agreement.”

The launch ceremony took place before the IV SPCAL Congress dedicated to the theme
“Quality and Transparency in Science involving Laboratory Animals”, in the School of Medicine
and the Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS) at University of Minho, in Braga. There followed a presentation by Prof. Doctor Nuno Sousa, neuroscientist and President of the
School of Medicine of the University of Minho; EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech and the
President of SPCAL, Prof. Doctor Ricardo Afonso.

Following the announcement there was a roundtable debate attended by the General
Director of Food and Veterinary (DGAV), Prof. Doctor Fernando Bernardo; the President of the
National Committee for the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes (CPAFC), Prof.
Doctor Yolanda Vaz; the Member of the Assembly of the Republic from the Parliamentary
Group of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Dr. Laura Magalhães; the Member of the Party for
People Animals and Nature (PAN) National Jurisdiction Council, Dr. Sara Fernandes and the
Member of the National Council of the Ecological Party “The Greens”, Dr. Mariana Silva.

This agreement builds on work in Portugal that began in 2017. A number of Portuguese research institutes met to discuss how to improve the Portuguese public’s understanding and acceptance of animal research. At this meeting were representatives from the Faculty of Sciences and Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Lisbon, Nova Medical School Lisbon, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, the Instituto de Medicina Molecular and the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown. At the meeting EARA proposed to explore the possibility of developing a Transparency Agreement to guide efforts on openness on animal research in Portugal.

Contacts:
EARA Ambassador in Portugal, Ana Barros, abarros@eara.eu, 911142729
EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu 00 44 (0) 7715525535

Additional Information
List of signatories to the Transparency Agreement:

Instituição Nome Completo, Cidade
CBMR Centro de Investigação em Biomedicina, Faro
CCMAR Centro de Ciências Marinhas, Faro
FC Fundação Champalimaud, Lisboa
FCUL Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa
FFUC Faculdade de Farmácia da Universidade de Coimbra, Coimbra
FFUL Faculdade de Farmácia da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa
FMV-UL Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa
i3S Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Porto
ICBR Instituto de Investigação Clínica e Biomédica de Coimbra, Coimbra
ICNAS Instituto de Ciências Nucleares Aplicadas à Saúde, Coimbra
ICVS Instituto de Investigação em Ciências da Vida e Saúde, Braga
IGC Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Lisboa
IHMT Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Lisboa
iMM Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Lisboa
NMS|FCM NOVA Medical School|Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Lisboa
UTAD Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real

European Animal Research Association (EARA) – The European Animal Research Association
has been established to better inform the European public and political decision makers on the
continued need for, and benefit of, the humane use of animals in biomedical research. EARA
seeks to provide support, advocacy and reliable communication on behalf of public and private
researchers at both national and European levels.

Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL) – The Portuguese Society of
Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL) is a private, non-profit association made up of people
whose activities are related to sciences in laboratory animals. SPCAL aims to standardize and
optimize the use of laboratory animals in the sense of promoting animal welfare and health, as
well as sponsoring collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches among professionals
involved in laboratory animal science. On the other hand, it is also the purpose of this Society
to implement and disseminate the ethical and behavioural principles that should accompany
the use of laboratory animals for scientific purposes. www.spcal.pt/pt

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EU Directive ‘cannot be implemented in isolation’ Brussels roundtable agrees

At a roundtable discussion on the use of animals in scientific research there is overwhelming agreement that Europe has appropriate and detailed legislation regulating the use of animals in scientific research, that adapts to and encourages scientific progress.

Conclusions also show that successful implementation of the Directive is a shared responsibility. The round table identified opportunities to join forces and work together, as the Directive 2010/63/EU cannot be successfully implemented by organisations or individuals working in isolation.

At the meeting in Brussels, representatives from the diverse sectors within the biomedical community (academia, industry, research organisations, medical charities, etc.) and policy-makers discuss the recommendations of the European Commission review report of the Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

The objective of the roundtable was to  inform policy discussion in EU institutions and to identify recommendations for the users’ community on this basis. Topics under discussion were: the implementation of the Directive; improving openness and transparency; ideas for further areas to be tackled.

While the Directive represented progress the meeting agreed that focus is required on ensuring it is implemented in a way that focuses on welfare impacts, avoids duplication or unnecessary processes and shares good practices, in particular on issues where the scientific community can do more to deliver on 3Rs and quality of science.

The meeting was also attended by EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, who called on scientists to play a greater role in openness.

The meeting was chaired by Professor André Parodi, Honorary President of the French National Academy of Medicine and of the French Veterinary Academy.

About the FEAM European Biomedical Policy Forum
The FEAM European Biomedical Policy Forum provides a platform for discussion on key policy issues for the biomedical community.

The Forum is an initiative from the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM). It aims to bring together representatives from academia, research charities, industry, European and national trade associations and professional bodies, regulators, public health bodies, and patient and consumers groups. If you would like further information on the FEAM European Biomedical Policy Forum or becoming a partner, please contact silvia.bottaro@feam.eu

Primate poposal by Netherlands government ‘will severely limit progress on biomedical research’.

EARA has responded to a call by the Dutch Science Minister for the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC), in the Netherlands, an EARA member, to draw up a proposal, by the beginning of next year, to reduce the number of experiments with no-human primates (NHP) by up to 40%.

Ahead of a debate, which took place in the Netherlands House of Representatives earlier this month, EARA wrote to Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science and Carola Schouten, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, urging them not to set an artificial limit on the number of NHP used in research.

The letter, written by EARA, said that any reduction was “highly likely to severely limit the progress that can be made in both fundamental research and the development of innovative medicines and treatments for life-threatening diseases and infectious disease control”.

Currently the main areas of primate study are infectious diseases, neuroscience and fertility and foetal research. Primates are an important model for the development of vaccines and treatments for HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and malaria and for investigations into treatments for conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to Schizophrenia. They are also used in safety testing for new medicines and vaccines.

Presently, the use of animals in research, especially NHP, is highly regulated and under EU Directive 2010/63 no animal can be used if there is any practical alternative method. The Scientific Committee on Health Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) confirmed in its 2017 updated opinion, the continued need and benefit of the use of NHP in research, and stated, “the current state of knowledge does not permit to propose a timetable for phasing-out the use of NHP in Europe”.

The letter also explains that research primates continue to be used in relatively small numbers (currently 0.05% of all research animal used in the EU) but they have made an extremely important contribution to many significant medical advances, for example the polio vaccine, life support systems for premature babies and deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease.
EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “BPRC carries out essential research on diseases such as AIDS, malaria and MS and we are working together with it to ensure its message is heard and understood by the Dutch government.”

The letter went on to say: “The research community is fully committed to the 3Rs principles: replacement; reduction; and refinement and we support the minister’s call for greater sharing of data in research with laboratory animals, including the publishing negative results, which is in line with the sector’s own desire for greater transparency and openness.

“The sector actively seeks opportunities to replace animal studies with alternative methods, to design studies that enable us to reduce the number of animals needed to obtain a scientifically valid result and to refine studies to minimise pain and distress to the animals involved. This has already led to a significant reduction in the numbers of animals used, of all species, in recent years.”

Netherlands Minister Proposal
Netherlands Minister Proposal (in Dutch)

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Speakers announced for EARA/FENS communications event in Germany

Improving Openness and Animal Research in Germany – Free satellite event, Thursday, 12 July, FENS/EARA

The list of speakers for the free satellite event at the FENS Forum of Neuroscience 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 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/improving-openness-and-animal-research-in-germany-tickets-45287347676

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dr.Thomas Kammertöns, Max-Delbrück-Center, Berlin
    Thomas is a staff scientist at the Institute of Immunology, Charité University Medical Centre, Berlin, and is interested in how the immune system influences the process of carcinogenesis.

Event details

Thursday, 12 July, 14.00 – 17.00
Max Delbrück Communications Center MDC
Berlin 
MAP
(A drinks reception will follow the discussion 17:00 – 18:00)

Background
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 Brexit briefing published

EARA Brexit Taskforce Briefing on the potential implications for animal science in the UK and EU stemming from Brexit

EARA has brought together a group of organisations under a Brexit Taskforce. The Taskforce is comprised of the following organisations – EARA, AnimalHealth Europe, Charles River Laboratories, Covance, Ellegaard Göttingen Minipigs, Envigo, GSK, Marshall BIoResources, National Office of Animal Health and Understanding Animal Research.

The Task Force has produced this briefing which addresses both the complexities and possible opportunities for animal science in Europe stemming from Exit. Read the briefing here

The aim of this initiative is to allow the wider biomedical sector the opportunity to raise concerns with both the 27 (through EU engagement) and UK authorities on outstanding and unresolved issues over Brexit and animal science. If you have any questions about the briefing or believe that your organisation would benefit from joining the Task Force please contact us at info@eara.eu

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Ebola vaccine in use thanks to ‘curiosity-driven’ basic research

There was no known widespread outbreaks of Ebola when the vaccine was developed 15 years ago using animals, says Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director.

There’s a worrying new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — the second the country has faced since the largest-ever Ebola virus epidemic swept West Africa from 2014 to 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) learned about the new outbreak in early May, but suspects that, since April, a total of 44 people have been infected with Ebola including 23 deaths. Three of the deaths involved health care workers.

The experimental vaccine was created by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2003, the vaccine was shown to be effective in monkeys. However, because of a lack of pharmaceutical company interest before the West Africa outbreak, it literally sat on a shelf until it was licensed to Merck in 2014.

The Ebola vaccine, which it is hoped can stem the new outbreak, was developed when there was no public health emergency, and no known widespread outbreak of Ebola. There had only been 1500 cases registered world-wide in the previous three decades. The research involved, and the animals used, were essentially for curiosity-driven, basic research trying to understand, and not for some immediate clinical application.

Yes, we may now have an Ebola vaccine, but as important as this is, that’s not why the research using animals began. It began with a very human, but much maligned (especially when animals are involved) intellectual pursuit to better understand what keeps humans and animals alive and healthy.

Ebola is a viral disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals. The virus is thought to exist naturally in some fruit bats and can be transmitted to humans through bodily fluids of infected animals or through the consumption of ‘bush meat.’ Once the virus is introduced to the human population it spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people. Symptoms such as fever and bleeding from orifices can be seen after four to ten days, few people survive contact.