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Stress and distress in laboratory animals is often inherent and unavoidable. The effect of these factors on the reliability and relevance of experimental data is not sufficiently appreciated. Greater awareness, debate and discussion of this issue are urgently required.
First Thoughts on the Effects on the Protection of Laboratory Animals of the UK’s Departure from the European Union
Directive 2010/63/EU led to improvements to the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986: it is hoped that these improvements will be maintained, and that special attention will be paid to the use of non-human primates and dogs
How Long Must They Suffer? Success and Failure of our Efforts to End the Animal Tragedy in Laboratories
Scientific findings have revealed how much we have dramatically underestimated the intellectual, social and emotional capabilities of non-human animals, including their levels of self-consciousness and ability to suffer from psychological stress. In the 21st century, the field of animal ethics has evolved as a serious scientific discipline, and nowadays largely advocates that the way we treat animals, both legally and in practice, is morally wrong. Politics and legislation have reacted to these facts, to some extent, but neither current legislation nor current practice reflect the scientific and moral state-of-the-art. Too often, the will to change things is watered down in the decision-making process, e.g. in the drafting of legislation. In the field of animal experimentation there have been many genuine efforts by various players, to advance and apply the principles behind the Three Rs. However, the fundamental problem, i.e. the overall number of animals sacrificed for scientific purposes, has increased. Clearly, if we are serious about our will to regard animal experimentation as an ethical and societal problem, we have to put much more emphasis on addressing the question of how to avoid the use of animals in science. To achieve this goal, certain issues need to be considered: a) the present system of ethical evaluation of animal experiments, including testing for regulatory purposes, needs to be reformed and applied effectively to meet the legal and moral requirements; b) animal testing must be avoided in future legislation, and existing legislation has to be revised in that regard; c) resources from animal-based research have to re-allocated toward alternatives; and d) the academic curricula must be reformed to foster and integrate ethical and animal welfare issues.
The time has come to plan for a future where the Three Rs will have served their purpose, animal experimentation will have been consigned to history, and humane biomedical science in research, testing and education will have become the norm, for the benefit of humans and animals alike.
Wider Recommendations for Institutions made in the Brown Report Following the BUAV Investigation into the Use of Animals at Imperial College London
Katy Taylor and Michael Balls
In December 2013, a group of experts produced a report on the management of an animal unit at Imperial College London, following a BUAV investigation that found evidence of systematic failures in the care and monitoring of animals used in procedures there. The Brown Report looked at four areas: the animal welfare and ethical review body (AWERB); the operation of the unit; training; and overall culture. The report made 33 recommendations to improve practices at Imperial College, many of which were relevant to other institutions. In this report, we identify the recommendations that are applicable to all animal facilities, and redraft them as a checklist with supporting information to assist those reviewing their animal care policies. We support the Brown Report’s recommendation that institutions should have a vision statement and an action plan, as well as a ‘champion’ for the Three Rs. We encourage all institutions that use animals to, as a first step, review the performance of their animal units against this checklist.
Elliot Lilley, Penny Hawkins and Maggy Jennings
Ending severe suffering is a desirable goal for both ethical and scientific reasons. The RSPCA has pledged to work toward the end of such suffering for laboratory animals, and in this article we outline a practical approach that establishments can follow to achieve this aim.
Animal Experimentation: Transparency and Openness Mean Little, Unless Accompanied by Honesty and Accountability. Delivery Plans, and Declarations and Concordats on transparency and openness, are all very well, but what will they really achieve with respect to the Three Rs?
Robert D. Combes and Michael Balls
In 2013, an undercover investigation by the BUAV raised serious concerns about the use, treatment and care of laboratory animals involved in regulated procedures at Imperial College, London. This led to an inquiry, set up by the college, which found deficiencies in the local ethical review process and a general lack of focus on the implementation of the Three Rs (Replacement, Refinement and Reduction). The Three Rs concept is the foundation of UK and EU legislation, but surveys of the published literature show that lack of its adoption is widespread. In spite of numerous guidelines, publications and publicity material extolling the benefits of the Three Rs to both animals and science, as well as substantial advances in the development, validation, and deployment of mechanistically-based non-animal methods, many scientists prefer to use traditional animal-based approaches. In addition, such scientists tend to pay less attention than they should to strategic planning, experimental design and the choice of appropriate statistical procedures. They are often unaware of the existence of replacement test methods to address all or some of their objectives, and are reluctant to develop and use new replacement methods. We explore some possible reasons for these shortcomings. We summarise the welfare and scientific effects of each of the Three Rs, and argue that: a) there is an urgent need for evidence to be made readily accessible to prospective licensees, which directly demonstrates the beneficial effects on animal welfare of the implementation of the Three Rs, separately and in combination, and the direct link this has with the quality of the scientific data obtained; b) a detailed systematic review of this evidence should be undertaken to augment the inadequate content of the prescribed Module 5 licensee training offered currently in the UK; c) such training (including that suggested in new EU-wide proposals) should be much more comprehensive, with stronger emphasis on the Three Rs, all parts of the syllabus should be fully examined, and there should be no exemptions from Module 5 training; and d) as the responsible Government department in the UK, the Home Office should take measures to tighten up its guidance for local ethical review, and its system of inspection of designated establishments, to obviate the justification for future undercover investigations.
Thales de A. e Tréz
The use of animals in science is a widespread practice, despite growing concern about its moral justification and scientific relevance. In this scenario, the Three Rs concept might be considered to be a motivation for the establishment of a new scientific approach to the use of experimental animals and to research itself. The main objective of this survey-based study was to identify the level of knowledge about this concept among lecturers (i.e. tenure-track professors) and postgraduate students in the physiological and pharmaceutical sciences in Brazilian universities. A questionnaire was completed by 185 lecturers from 16 universities, and 140 postgraduate students from five of these universities. The results indicate that the concept of the Three Rs is widespread among lecturers and students in the areas of physiology and pharmacology, throughout Brazilian universities, but that its interpretation generally attributes more importance to refinement than to reduction and replacement.