Category Archives: EARA Blog

A trans-Atlantic transparency gap on animal experiments

This article was originally published in Science on 14 July 2017

The launch last month of a website called LabAnimalTour.org, which showcases animal experiments at several prominent institutions in the United Kingdom, is part of a trend toward increasing openness by researchers in a country that 2 decades ago was riven by sometimes-violent animal rights activism. Since 2014, 116 life sciences organizations in the United Kingdom have signed onto a Concordat on Openness on Animal Research that commits them to communicating frankly and in detail about their animal experiments. Ninety Spanish institutions adopted a similar pledge last year, and universities in Belgium, France, and Germany are talking about moving in the same direction. The new approach stands in stark contrast to many U.S. universities, where administrators are reluctant to display and defend their animal work. In an online compendium developed by the nonprofit group Speaking of Research, just 65 U.S. academic centers are listed as having a public-facing web page dedicated to explaining their animal experiments and why they are needed—and more than half of these receive low grades for lacking user-friendly material. In the face of a recent Gallup poll in which U.S. public acceptance of animal research has hit a new low, transparency advocates are pushing U.S. academic institutions to open up.

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Research with dogs develops an artificial pancreas to treat diabetes

This post was originally published in Speaking or Research website

White Coat Waste is a conservative animal rights organization devoted to the elimination of animal research. Its first target is biomedical research conducted using dogs at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Unfortunately, this campaign is gaining traction. While White Coat Waste is supported mainly by Republicans, some Democrat representatives like Dina Titus (Nevada) and Ted Lieu (California) have expressed their support. In view of that, it is important to highlight the remarkable achievements of dog research at the VA and the tremendous loss that its cancellation would be for Veterans and the general public.

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Max Planck Society publishes White Paper on animal research

On Thursday 12 January the Max Planck Society (MPS) in Germany published a White Paper in which it outlines key ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in basic research. The Senate of the MPS has adopted the white paper as a declaration of principle.

White Paper: Animal Research in the Max Planck Society

The White Paper states why animal research is still a vital part of life sciences research, and explains the legal and ethical framework that regulates animal research at the Max Planck Society. Together with the 3Rs, these issues shape the approach to animal research throughout the Society. Practically, the Max Planck Society has translated the ethical stance on animal research outlined in the White Paper into a number of commitments, including measures to increase animal welfare, encouraging and financing alternatives to the use of animals, and proactive engagement in professionalizing the public discourse on animal ethics.

In an important step the MPS has committed itself to open and proactive communications on the use of animals in research by explaining the research goals, the rationale for the application of certain methods and the outcome of the research projects to the public at large. In this way, the MPS intends to foster an informed dialogue between science and society on the use of animals in biomedical research.

A Presidential Commission on Animal Research in basic science at the Max Planck Society produced the White paper as part of an extensive and rigorous discussion process. In this process, the MPS consulted a group of renowned researchers from various areas of the life sciences, behavioural researchers, ethicists, communication specialists and senior individuals from the field of research policy.

Image: Max Planck Society

The Presidential Commission was convened by Professor Dr. Martin Stratmann (President, Max Planck Society) and chaired by Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolf Singer (Founding Director, Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience in cooperation with Max Planck Society). Experts who fed into the White Paper include Professor Sir Colin Blakemore (Neuroscience and Philosophy), Professor Dr. Stefan Treue (Director, German Primate Center), Professor Sir Mark Walport (Chief Scientific Adviser, UK Government) and Kirk Leech (Executive Director, European Animal Research Association).

Read the full White Paper: “Position statement of the Max Planck Society concerning the use of animals in experiments for basic research” (in German; English version starts on page 32)

Read more: Animal research at the Max Planck Society

Scientists’ engagement in animal research policy-making – Lab Animal Europe column

The November issue of Lab Animal Europe magazine features an Outreach article written by Emma Martinez, EARA’s Communications and Policy Officer. In this article, also published in Lab Animal (US), Emma discusses how the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Stop vivisection’ and the review of Directive 2010/63/EU converge on the European Commission scientific conference ‘Non-Animal Approaches – The Way Forward’ and the need for scientific engagement.

Read the full size version here.

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This article has been reposted with permission from Lab Animal Europe.

Transparency Agreement on Animal Research launched in Spain

A Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain was launched yesterday in Madrid. The Acuerdo de transparencia sobre el uso de animales en experimentación científica en España (lit. ‘Transparency agreement on the use of animals in scientific experimentation in Spain’), has been developed by Spain’s Confederation of Scientific Societies (COSCE) in collaboration with EARA’s Emma Martinez-Sanchez. The Spanish document has been developed based on the UK Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. Similar to the UK Concordat, the Agreement outlines four commitments for research centres in Spain to provide more information about animal research at their institutions.

Animal rights groups in Spain have been challenging research centres in Spain requesting to participate in the public debate. These challenges follow similar initiatives that have been happening in other European countries such as Italy and Germany. The European Commission acknowledged these calls for participatory debates in its response to last year’s European Citizens Initiative ‘Stop Vivisection’, where they called for more transparency and information.

The Spanish Transparency Agreement was featured in the November 2016 issue of Lab Animal Europe.

Logos of the 90 institutions that signed up at the time of the launch

Kirk Leech, Executive Director of EARA, said:

“I congratulate the Spanish scientific community with the successful launch of the Spanish Transparency Agreement on Animal Research. The Spanish Transparency Agreement is the latest in a series of initiatives across Europe to encourage transparency on animal research.

“It’s fantastic to see such a large number of research institutions signed up to the Transparency Agreement. This provides great strength in numbers in improving communication to the public about animal research. The next challenge will be to put the commitments into action – EARA will be helping COSCE to follow up on this and ensure that Spain keeps moving forward in openness on animal research.”

The Spanish Transparency Agreement was already mentioned in press in the context of the launch of Tierversuche Verstehen (‘Understanding Animal Testing’), the animal research website of the Allianz of German Research organisations.

Yesterday’s launch of the Spanish Transparency Agreement has been featured in many Spanish national papers and on some radio stations. Below are some examples:

El País: Los laboratorios que experimentan con animales abrirán sus puertas
RTVE: Presentan un acuerdo de transparencia en el uso de animales para experimentación
Noticias de Gipuzkoa: Presentan un acuerdo de transparencia en uso de animales en experimentación
Europa Press: Más de 80 instituciones públicas y privadas se comprometen a hacer más transparente la experimentación con animales
Te Interesa: Un centenar de instituciones firman un acuerdo de transparencia sobre la experimentación animal porque “No hay nada que ocultar”
Comunica Biotec: Transparencia también en experimentación animal

Studying the Zika virus in rhesus macaques

The 2016 Olympic Games are due to begin in Rio de Janeiro this weekend. In the lead-up to this year’s Games, the Zika virus has never been far from the headlines. A number of top golfers and basketball players have decided to pull out and other athletes have also expressed their concerns, despite the risk to anyone who is not pregnant being minimal. As it is not currently mosquito season in Brazil, experts say the Olympics will not accelerate the spread of the virus.

It is thought the epidemic has reached its peak in Latin America and will slowly burn out over the next few years. Still, there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Brazil since the outbreak began in early 2015 and the virus has reached Europe, with the first baby with Zika-related microcephaly born in Spain. Mosquitoes in Florida have now also been seen to transmit the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US have issued a travel warning for Florida.

Dr Koen Van Rompay, D.V.M. Ph.D., virologist at the California National Primate Research Center

Dr Koen Van Rompay, virologist at the California National Primate Research Center, studies the Zika virus in monkeys

The Zika virus remains a prominent public health concern and a priority for the biosciences. In March, EARA spoke to Dr Koen van Rompay, who helped to develop and test the anti-viral drug tenofovir, which is currently the most frequently used HIV drug in the world. We interviewed him on the day before he and his team at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) infected two female rhesus macaques with Zika virus to understand how the disease progresses. We asked him about his current study on the Zika virus, why he uses primate models in his work and how he responds to critics of animal research. Continue reading

On Lab Animal Day, Belgian science unites in support of animal research

This blog was also published on Huffington Post UK.

World Day for Laboratory Animals on 24 April was originally established by animal rights activists to raise awareness for the fate of animals in laboratories. Every year on that day, they organise demonstrations and petitions against animal research. But this time, on behalf of 24 research institutions in Belgium, we wanted to raise awareness of the important biomedical research that would not be possible without research using animals. Continue reading

Belgian research organisations unite in support of animal research

We are proud to announce the release today of a Statement in support of animal research and a transparent approach in Belgium to mark World Day for Laboratory Animals (April 24th). Signed by 24 research organisations, the statement sees public and private research institutions from all three regions in Belgium unite in a pledge for openness on animal research. Continue reading

Dutch animal research statistics: 18% more procedures than in 2013

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA) published Zo doende 2014, its annual report of animal research in the Netherlands, yesterday. The number of animals used is 17.9% higher than in 2013. Despite the annual report containing revised numbers for 2013, direct comparison is difficult due to new reporting requirements following on from the European Directive 2010/63/EU. Continue reading