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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

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.”

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.

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. Continue reading