On Tuesday, Belgian animal rights group GAIA published video material taken during an undercover investigation at the animal research facility of the Free University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium. The footage was taken over the course of three months, and suggests that the care for the animals in the facility was inadequate. VUB announced that they will investigate the footage and cooperate with an external inquiry announced by the State Secretary for animal welfare.
Coverage of the infiltration on the website of Het Laatste Nieuws, the most popular newspaper in Flanders and Belgium.
The infiltration took place between March and June of this year. Under orders of GAIA, an undercover informant spent three months working as an animal caretaker at VUB’s Animalarium, the animal research facility at the university’s Jette campus. The six minute long video that GAIA released on Tuesday shows footage of animals in the facility, as well as recordings of conversations with employees at the Animalarium. Reactions to the video where mixed: half of comments on the article in Het Laatste Nieuws were opposed to animal research, while around 25% explained the role of animal research in biomedicine, and a further 25% were neutral on the issue.
VUB has announced that it will thoroughly investigate the footage to determine whether any of the events in the video breached national legislation or the university’s internal standards. The university understands that the video has raised concerns, and will examine the need for a strengthening of internal procedures. In addition, VUB has advanced plans for a new research infrastructure designed to provide housing for research animals with the most modern techniques, with particular attention being paid to animal welfare.
Bianca Debaets, Brussels State Secretary for Animal Welfare, has said she was shocked by the footage, and that her administration will carry out an extra inspection of the lab in question. The VUB has promised its full cooperation in the inspection. Debaets added that Brussels subsidises promising 3Rs research at the VUB and that animal research remains necessary in research, and should remain possible within a strict and well-enforced legislative framework.
LONDON, UK – 10 November, 2017
The European scientific community supports the view of the EU Commission, that the Directive on the protection of animals used in biomedical research is bringing significant benefits in animal welfare and a sound foundation for future best practice in the sector.
The European Animal Research Association (EARA), which represents more than 60 organisations across Europe in the biomedical research sector, has welcomed the Commission report, published today. The report reviews the requirements of Directive 2010/63/EU – all uses of live animals for research or education and testing must be carried out in compliance with the Directive.
In particular, the EU recognised that measures to improve transparency to the general public on the performance of research establishments in the areas of animal use and welfare are starting to have an effect. Requirements to publish non-technical summaries of the objectives and benefits of research projects, as well as annual statistical data, are also seen to have greatly improved openness in Member States. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
The Max Planck Society (MPS) in Germany has 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. Continue reading
A group of young, ambitious Belgian scientists have had enough of standing by doing nothing while animal research is criticised in the media. This article by Liesbeth Aerts and Jeroen Aerts was translated from the original Dutch version published in De Standaard on 26 December 2016.
‘Sadists’, ‘bastards, ‘a gang of psychopaths’, ‘worse than Dutroux [serial killer and child molester]’ … a selection of the insults directed at animal researchers that appear each time the debate about animal research surfaces in the media. One day we are awarded with prizes for our research, the other day we are cursed, insulted or threatened.
As young ambitious researchers, we care deeply about our work and also about this controversial subject. The mixed feelings of the general public indicate there is still a lot of mystery about what really goes on behind the doors of a scientific laboratory.
Spokespersons and policy makers don’t seem to understand it very well either, and the people heading our research institutes are silent as usual. Since we are doing the actual animal experiments, we are the ones at the receiving end of all of these insults. We are told to keep our head down, for fear of reprisal; but we don’t want to stand by and do nothing while we are put on trial in the press and on social media. Continue reading
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.
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.
The 13th annual FELASA Congress will be taking place in Brussels from June 13-16. With sessions discussing a wide range of topics in animal research, it is the place to be for information sharing on best practices in laboratory animal science, welfare and policy. Continue reading
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
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
Every year the United Kingdom’s Home Office (the UK ministerial department of internal affairs) publishes its statistics on animals used in scientific procedures. The statistics are announced at a press briefing at which journalists can question the numbers of animals used and researchers place them in their scientific context. Now a yearly opportunity to openly discuss the need for animals in research, these press briefings were first organised as a counterweight to a negative, one-sided narrative as promoted by anti-animal research activists. Continue reading