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EARA website study shows much more progress is needed to improve openness on animal research in Germany

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Germany, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.

EARA assessed a total of 151 institutional websites in Germany during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:

  • Just a third (34%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
  • Just over half the websites assessed (55%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
  • Well under a third (28%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

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Much more progress needed to improve openness on animal research in EU – EARA website study

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of more than a 1,000 websites across the EU, assessing how the biomedical sector talks about research using animals, has found that ‘the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research’.

The findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018 have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.

A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU were assessed, both public and private bodies, including universities and pharmaceutical companies, during 2018 and a rating system was developed to analyse the data which found that:

• Just under half (44%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.

• Just over half the websites assessed (53%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.

• Well under a third (28%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

• Only just over a third (36%) of the websites assessed carry any imagery related to animal research.

• Around half the websites (49%) assessed featured some kind of case study on the animal research they support, fund or conduct.

• Fewer than a quarter (23%) of the websites in the sector provide ‘Extensive Information’ online, for instance, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or press releases.

Comparing some of the countries in the study, showed variations across the EU. The percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research was – France 32%, Germany 34%, Italy 39%, Netherlands 15%, Spain 84%, and UK 95%.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “We believe the sector needs to make greater use of all opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public. Whilst progress has been made by many institutions, much more could be done.”

The study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.

EARA anticipates that institutional websites will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research and the contribution of animal research to biomedical science. The website study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

Using the documentation and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

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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 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.

The benefits of animal research
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.

EARA Communications Handbook launched

A guide on how to develop and implement a communications strategy on the use of animals in research has been published by the European Animal Research Association (EARA).

A free hard copy of the EARA Communications Handbook (in English only, cover price €375), along with an encrypted electronic version has been distributed exclusively to EARA member organisations.

The Handbook is intended to be shared with in-house research and communications professionals and includes a step-by-step guide to developing a long-term communications strategy and other advice on actions you can take to encourage a more balanced public debate on the issue of animal research.

There is also practical communications advice on how to handle those crisis situations that may occur.

EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, said: “We encourage all EARA institutions across Europe to implement the recommendations outlined in this manual and to engage with EARA for further support or advice.”

Organisations that are not EARA members can purchase the Handbook or arrange to discuss communications further by contacting Kirk Leech.

Personhood for animals?

Animals are not capable of taking responsibility for their own actions, never mind having a say in how society is run, says EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech.

The new documentary, Unlocking the Cage, follows Steve Wise, a lawyer from the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) who argues that animals should have the legal status of persons, and his attempt to make chimpanzee “rights” acknowledged and protected by law. The endeavour failed in
December 2015 when the New York appeals court rejected the premise that chimpanzee, Tommy, a retired circus performer living in a cage in upstate New York, should be entitled to legal personhood. However, the NhRP subsequently filed a second case on behalf of another chimpanzee, Kiko.

The NhRP is an organization based in the United States, working to achieve legal rights for members of species other than humans. The essence of the NhRP’s argument is that animals with “human qualities”, such as chimpanzees, should have basic rights—including freedom from imprisonment.

One such human quality that it highlights is apes’ supposed capacity to
empathize. To name one example from the many studies on this topic, research by scientists at Kyoto University claims that “both chimpanzees’ and humans’ eyes mimic the pupil dilation of the images they were shown” (PLoS One 9, e104886; 2014). But is this really an indication of empathy? There is a world of difference between an instinctual connection between organisms and the ability to understand another being’s condition from their perspective – which is what empathy means. What can at first glance be seen as evidence of deliberation or empathy in animals is little more than learned behaviour, a characteristic all animals share.

Through poetry, literature, music and other works of art humans seek to make sense of the lived experiences we share with one another. If one reduces every physical action to its simplest form – such as the involuntary matching of another individual’s pupil size—then one can, of course, find parallels between humans and other animals. But this kind of reductionism
does not deepen our understanding of human beings or, indeed, animals. We are alone in being able to continually reflect on the internal life of our fellow species.

As Helene Guldberg argues in her book, Just Another Ape? (Imprint Academic, Exeter, 2010), science has provided strong evidence that the differences in language, tool-use, self-awareness and insight
between apes and humans are enormous.

Intellectually, a human child, even one as young as two years of age, is head and shoulders above any ape. The claim that apes are cognitively more advanced than other animals is also dubious. Much has been made of chimps’ tool-using abilities, but recent discoveries show that the tool making and tool use in woodpeckers equals anything observed in chimpanzees. So should we, therefore, be granting the right of personhood
to birds as well? Of course not. Birds, like apes, would be incapable of exercising those rights. Rights have been fought for by humans throughout history. They are premised on the idea that autonomous individuals should have a say in how they live their lives, how society is organized and who
should be treated as equals before the law. Animals are not capable of taking responsibility for their own actions, never mind having a say in how society is run.

Granted, the NhRP were not asking the New York courts to grant chimps
full human rights. Rather, they argued for Tommy to be given the right not to be imprisoned against his will (quite how we come to know Tommy’s “will” is left unsaid). On its website, the NhRP outlines its mission “to change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere ‘things,’ which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to ‘persons,’ who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty.”

So, were they proposing that Tommy should be given “bodily liberty” and be set free? Well, not quite. The NhRP proposed to move Tommy from the cage he currently inhabits to a chimpanzee sanctuary in Florida – where, of course, he would not be at liberty to come and go as he pleases. As one of the panel of judges quite rightly asked Wise: “Aren’t you asking that Tommy
go from one form of confinement to another?”

The reality is that Tommy would still be held in captivity, albeit in “a condition that is as close to the wild as is possible in North America.” A move from a cage to an outdoor sanctuary cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as providing a “fundamental right” of “bodily integrity and bodily liberty.”

Really, what this case boiled down to is the quality of Tommy’s living conditions. Patrick Lavery, Tommy’s owner, has insisted that the chimp is comfortable in his environment, “a spacious $150,000 facility with a door to
an outside area.” Wise, however, repeatedly refers to Tommy as living in “solitary confinement.” Whether it would be better to move Tommy to the sanctuary is open to question. But arguing that Tommy should be entitled to legal personhood and bodily liberty was fantasy. Rights are something that
only humans can understand and exercise.

This article originally appeared in Lab Animal magazine in August 2016.

EARA Communications Handbook launched

A guide on how to develop and implement a communications strategy on the use of animals in research has been published by the European Animal Research Association (EARA).

A free hard copy of the EARA Communications Handbook (in English only, cover price €375), along with an encrypted electronic version has been distributed exclusively to EARA member organisations.

The Handbook is intended to be shared with in-house research and communications professionals and includes a step-by-step guide to developing a long-term communications strategy and other advice on actions you can take to encourage a more balanced public debate on the issue of animal research.

There is also practical communications advice on how to handle those crisis situations that may occur.

EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, said: “We encourage all EARA institutions across Europe to implement the recommendations outlined in this manual and to engage with EARA for further support or advice.”

Organisations that are not EARA members can purchase the Handbook or arrange to discuss communications further by contacting Kirk Leech.

EARA publishes communications guide on animal research

The EARA Communications Handbook, a step-by-step guide to developing a long-term communications strategy to raise awareness on animal research has just been published.

The Handbook (in English only, €375) is free to all EARA member organisations and is designed as a handy guide for research and communications professionals on how to develop and implement a communications strategy on animal research.

The access an encrypted electronic copy of the Handbook please contact your institution’s EARA representative and request the password.

In addition, the Handbook offers practical communications advice on how to handle those crisis situations that may occur and web links to examples of good practice within the biomedical sector. There is also advice on other internal and external communication actions institutions can take to encourage a more balanced public debate on the issue of animal research.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “EARA encourages its member organisations across Europe to implement the recommendations outlined in this manual and to engage with us for further support or advice.

I am confident that these guidelines will be a very useful template for institutions across Europe.”

We would be happy to work closely with your institution to help you implement any steps needed to create a robust and sustainable communications strategy. Please let us know if you would like to set up a meeting, with EARA and your key decision makers, where we can discuss a plan of action.

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: Continue reading

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. Continue reading