LETTERS re "Proposal for an Accord Between Animal Advocates and Biomedical Researchers"[May 2012]
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2012:
Letters re “Proposal for an Accord Between Animal Advocates and Biomedical Researchers”
HSUS president: “We must work with our traditional adversaries.”
When I got involved with animal protection in the mid-1980s as an undergraduate college student, the use of animals in research, testing, and education was one of the hot topics in our cause. Peter Singer, in his enormously influential book Animal Liberation, put that issue along with factory farming at the top of the to-do list for the new generation of animal advocates. Readers recoiled as Singer described, in his well- researched manifesto, duplicative experiments, protocols involving the use of animals with no relevance to the human health circumstance, and animals enduring extreme pain and distress as routine and normal practices in the laboratory setting.
As grassroots animal advocates, we had a hard time understanding how highly intelligent and well-trained people could decide to cut up, infect, and poison animals as a career path, and then go home at night to pet the dog and have a nice meal with the family.
Certainly, we believed, there could be no defense of killing animals for entertainment (dogfighting or trophy hunting) or for fur, since there are so many other options available to people.
But in the research arena, even if ostensibly done in the name of curing disease or relieving human suffering, there still seemed to be too much moral carelessness and indifference to animal suffering among animal experimenters. There also seemed to be a certain arrogance to the enterprise, as if the practitioners had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted because they wore white coats, claimed advanced degrees, and could appeal to human benefit.
Unfortunately, all of this was a prescription for extreme polarization. It was compounded by extremists and obstructionists on both sides.
There were animal advocates who denied that animal experiments could yield any helpful or useful information, and a few who resorted to threatening or illegal tactics that suggested that our cause cared more about animals than people.
Animal researchers, and the trade associations that represented them, wrote off campaigners as cranks, anti-intellectuals, and threats to public safety. The research community circled the wagons, made access to information more difficult, and fought even the most modest reforms, signaling that any capitulation to the activists would mark the beginning of the end of all animal experimentation.
The “Proposal for an Accord Between Animal Advocates and Biomedical Researchers” published in the April 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE suggests a sensible path forward on this issue. It starts with the notion of the Three Rs: “refining” protocols to eliminate pain and distress, “reducing” the number of animals used in a particular experiment, and “replacing” animals with non-animal methods where they exist and are validated. Here is a point where both sides can agree: there is a moral cost to using animals, and if we can minimize the suffering, we must. If there are alternatives available, we have a moral duty to select them.
In 1985 animal advocates working to secure amendments to the Animal Welfare Act that increased oversight of animal research dropped their call for a second person on the AWA-mandated Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees to represent community interests and animal welfare, but this is a great idea and one that could make a strong difference if that individual is a trained ethicist (as some non-scientists on current IACUCs are).
For over a decade, we at The HSUS have also been pushing to eliminate pain and distress through acceptance of a universal standard of pain measurement. Minimizing animal suffering goes to the heart of our moral duty to animals that are going to be used in tests and research. The fight over the definition of “animal” is also a longtime concern for those who care about this topic, and we agree that vertebrate animals should be included under the Animal Welfare Act standards.
Now, our preference at HSUS is for a full court press on replacement technologies for animal research, and that’s where we’ve been placing our emphasis. And in recent years, we’ve seen a number of dramatic developments in this regard. For example:
* Publication of Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy by an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences, which was responsible for changing the direction of scientists and policymakers toward non-animal technologies for toxicity testing and human risk assessment.
* Following pressure and dialogue, Allergan applied for and received Food & Drug Administration approval for an alternative to an animal test that resulted in the animals suffocating to death, which essentially replaces animal use for Botox cosmetic testing.
* A European Union ban on cosmetics testing, with a 2013 deadline after which no cosmetics that have been tested on animals may be sold in the EU.
We also saw the National Institutes of Health finally commit recently to deny funding to individuals who use dogs from Class B dealers. This is set to take effect in 2015. It follows a National Academy of Sciences report that said that laboratory use of dogs and cats from Class B dealers is unnecessary. We are also seeing more recognition of the limitations of animal research, and more funding for innovative and very promising new non-animal approaches. For example, NIH and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced a $140 million project that will fund a project to develop a “human-on-a-chip” technology for drug and other testing.
And in December 2011, a panel of the Institute of Medicine concluded that the use of chimpanzees in experiments is “largely unnecessary.” It identified no area of research where chimpanzees are definitely still needed, but the panel was split on one area and suggested that the alternative methods need to be further developed.
If we are going to succeed in animal protection, we must continue to exert pressure, but we must also work with our traditional adversaries.
We are heartened by the increasing number of active biomedical research scientists who now openly state that they would prefer not to use animals if they did not have to. We invite them to sit down to negotiate with animal advocates for a better way forward for all parties, including the animals.
President & CEO
The Humane Society
of the United States
2100 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202-452-1100 Fax: 301-258-3077
Animal advocates should “press for complete replacement of animals in research”
The “Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the Biomedical Research Community,” in the April 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE could not come at a more appropriate time. Having been debating the need for and the manner in which animals are used in laboratory studies for the past 36 years, I cannot remember a time when there appeared to be less interest in constructive dialogue.
Maybe I am succumbing to the standard claim of older individuals that things were better in the past but I have been surprised recently at the level of suspicion and animus directed at animal activists by those involved in the management of biomedical research. I do not remember things being as polarized back in the 1970s and 1980s.
I would also note that I think we are at a point in time where the animal protection community should be pressing for complete replacement of animals in research (or at least the replacement of those studies that cause animal suffering). There have been remarkable developments in the past few years that have begun to change the landscape for research technology in rather dramatic ways.
In 2007, for example, the U.S. National Research Council produced a report on the future of toxicity testing that indicated that animal tests could be replaced by non-animal alternatives. This report was followed by a number of initiatives by government research and regulatory bodies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Toxicology Program, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food & Drug Administration, that seek to implement the vision outlined by the NRC expert panel.
Last year NIH director Francis Collins established a new Institute for Translational Medicine. In a paper describing his vision for the new Institute, Dr. Collins specifically mentioned that new high-throughput technologies based on human cell cultures could potentially replace animal studies for both efficacy and safety testing (See Science Translational Medicine, July 6 , 2011).
More recently, the NIH and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency combined to offer funding of $140 million to create a new “human-on-a-chip” technology. This follows the development of “lung-on-a-chip” and “liver-on-a-chip” technologies that are allowing very interesting research to be done on human-relevant systems.
There have also been a number of scientific papers published in the past few years that have questioned the relevance of animal studies to human disease. For example, in stroke research, none of the therapies that worked in animal models have been effective when tested in human clinical situations. A new genetically modified mouse (the SOD-Mouse) was thought to hold special promise in searching for therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases but it also has not produced the hoped-for results.
Pharmaceutical research, development, and manufacturing giants have also moved away from the animal-based screening systems they were using to identify new lead compounds as psychopharmacological agents because the results were not leading to effective new drug products.
Laboratory animal use has declined since the mid-1970s by around 50% in countries with major research efforts. In the USA, the amount of research funding per animal used has increased by more than 10-fold in the last fifty years.
Sir Peter Medawar, a Nobel Prize winning immunologist and perhaps the true “father” of the “reduction, refinement, replacement” concept, predicted in 1969 that laboratory animal use would not keep going up, and that it would peak and start to decline within ten years. He was spot-on.
Melawar also said, as part of the same 1969 speech, that only research on animals would allow us to develop the biological knowledge and understanding that would, one day, allow us to end laboratory animal use altogether. There has been a 50% decline in laboratory animal use over the 40-year period from 1970 to 2010.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that we might be able to reach the second part of Medawar’s prediction within the next forty years–in other words, by 2050!
–Andrew N. Rowan, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer
The Humane Society of the U.S.
Chief Executive Officer
Humane Society International
2100 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
ANIMAL PEOPLE president &”Proposal for an accord” principal author Kim Bartlett responds:
We would agree that there is an extreme polarization between animal advocates and biomedical researchers, with the result that there has been very little progress in laboratory animal welfare since the Animal Welfare Act was last amended in 1985, except for somewhat strengthened Public Health Service guidelines which apply only to federally-funded research. As Dr. Rowan points out, there have been developments in non-animal alternatives to toxicity testing and scientific papers questioning the relevance of animal studies to human disease. However, no one really knows how many animals are being used in research today in the U.S. The numbers are down in the United Kingdom, but globally the numbers have increased.
In addition to strengthening IACUCs (ethics committees) and demanding greater emphasis on the 3Rs of Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement, one of the primary goals in drafting the “Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the Biomedical Research Community” was to eliminate experimental use of animals that causes significant suffering, by requiring adherence to a pain scale based on objective criteria with a specific point at which experiments on animals could not be performed regardless of potential gain in scientific knowledge. The pain scale would specify the appropriate level of sedation, analgesia and/or anesthesia to be used at each point on the scale. While a majority of the U.S. public accepts the use of animals for scientific experiments, it clearly does not accept torturing animals; any procedure that would be considered torture if performed on human prisoners is torture if it is performed on unanesthetized laboratory animals. The document also mandates post-procedure pain management and expeditious anesthesia of moribund or irremediably suffering animals. The “Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the Biomedical Research Community” was designed so that it would not provide impediments to the goal of eventual cessation of animal use in biomedical research and testing.
Predicts accord “will do more harm than good”
I appreciate the hard work and good intentions that went to produce the “Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the Biomedical Research Community” published in the April 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE. But I served on a committee which produced a similar proposal for the Hong Kong government in 2004. My experience then and since makes me feel that this “Proposal for an Accord,” if implemented, will do more harm than good.
The document we produced, entitled “Code of Practice-Care and Use of Animals for Experimental Purposes,” may be read at: <www.afcd.gov.hk/– english/publications/publications_qua/files/code.pdf>. The code we drew up was fine as far as it went. Unfortunately, the Hong Kong government refused to allow mention of the details of the composition of the “Ethical Committees” and such issues as quorums and voting powers. This has allowed the institutions to stuff the committees with pro-vivisection people and outvote the token animal welfare representatives.
The government also refused to give the code teeth. There is no legislation to enforce the code. Animal experimenters use the code to pay lip service to animal welfare ideals with the result that the public is lulled into believing that all is well–thus postponing any possibility of live animal experiments being ended, possibly for decades.
I understand that the committee that produced this new proposal are keen to avoid repeating our Hong Kong experience and intend to press for the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees mandated by the U.S. Animal Welfare Act since 1971 to include ethicists, and to have a grievance procedure and improved transparency. Unfortunately, I see this as well-intentioned but doomed to failure. Those in favour of animal experiments will continue to make certain that the set-up is such that they can out-vote those against experiments, thus ensuring that business will continue as usual.
I believe we animal activists should not participate in “Ethical Committees” that are going to approve animal experiments despite any arguments we present. I believe the way to go is to do research into alternative research models and do our best to persuade the scientists to use them.
We also need to campaign for the total elimination not only of experiments on animals but of all exploitation of animals. I keep coming back to this. I do not think we will make much progress–either by incrementalism or abolitionism–until we have moved the public away from flesh eating. That is why most of my effort these days is spent on promoting veganism.
We need to push vegan ideas until we reach the tipping point-which I believe is not as far away as most people think. Of course we don’t have to wait until the tipping point to do whatever else we can see as worth doing. Of course we can multi-task. We can campaign and do hands-on work with all sorts of issues. But we have to be very careful that incremental gains are not outweighed by entrenching the exploitation that we seek to alleviate.
–John Wedderburn, M.D.
Ethics committees waste time
Concerning “Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the Biomedical Research Community,” in the April 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, I was once on an Animal Ethics Committee. I would advise people that these committees are a waste of time.
Australian Animal Ethics committees must include a veterinarian, a person with experience in the use of animals in research, someone with a proven commitment to animal welfare who is on the committee to speak on behalf of animal welfare, and a person who is independent of the research institution and has never been involved with animal research.
The animal welfare representative can easily be manipulated by the institutions. Anyone can claim to be an animal welfare person. Research institutions want only want a person who will pass an experiment. I have never heard of an experiment not being given the go-ahead because an animal welfare person thinks it is unethical. I was sacked because I raised too many questions and would not pass experiments. I was replaced with a person nominated by the state government, who would pass experiments. This was the subject of much media coverage.
It is left to the researcher to point out to the committee whatever alternatives to the proposed experiment might be suitable. But do researchers always know all the alternatives available? I have seen protocols where the researcher simply stated that no alternatives were available. It is also left to the researcher to state the impact of the research on the animal. This means the researcher must understand exactly what suffering the animals endure. As most of us really cannot understand the suffering of even another human unless we have experienced the problem ourselves, there is no doubt that the full impact on the animals is never stated. Also it is not in the researchers interest to fully state the impact on research animals.
–Lynette Shanley, founder
Primates for Primates
P.O. Box 60
Portland, NSW 2847, Australia