Companies, universities and charities vow to reveal more on animal testing
Drug companies, medical charities and universities, will release more detailed information on any scientific tests or experiments that have been performed on animals. This is due to an agreement being announced on Wednesday.
Over 70 UK organisations have signed the agreement on openness in animal research. The agreement compels the organisations to be clear on why, how and when animals are used in experiments. They will also have to explain the benefits, harms and limitations of their experiments.
Major biomedical research funders, The Welcome Trust, The Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK have all signed the pledge as well as pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Pfizer. All these organisations will now have to post information about animal testing on their websites and explain their efforts in reducing the use of animals. You may hear the 3Rs; replacement, refinement and reduction a lot when looking through this information.
In 2013 over 4 million scientific procedures were carried out on lab animals in the UK, three quarters of the animals involved in the testing were mice. The most popular testing on animals was breeding genetically modified animals, to understand how particular genes work, this accounted for 40% of experiments. It is also illegal in the UK to use animals if alternatives can lead to comparable research data.
Chief executive of Understanding Animal Research Wendy Jarrett, said the agreement was a response to polls that suggested the public supported animal research but wanted more information on how animals were used.
“The concordat is intended to give the public more information and ensure that the information they get is accurate and honest, so they can make their own minds up, and make informed decisions about how they feel,” Jarrett said.
The agreement sets out commitments which require signatories to be clear about their use of animals in research. These are; to work more closely with the media and the public; to be proactive in explaining the value and limitations of animal research and to report annually on their progress. There is no enforcement of the issues agreed in the agreement. The only punitive measure for organisations that fail to hit the targets agreed, is they reconsider being a signatory.
Though some animal rights groups welcomed any move to greater openness, many were critical and it gave organisations to much control over the information they choose to release. Under the agreement, organisations can withhold any information which they believe is commercially sensitive, which includes scientific ideas and results from animal testing.
The use of animals in scientific research in the UK is overseen by the Home Office, however the government is not allowed to disclose and information it receives in confidence from scientists under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. The Home Office is thought to be reviewing section 24 of the act in the hope of improving transparency.
Although the news of the agreement will be welcomed by many, it was never going to please everyone as there is so many mixed thoughts on this subject. The information published on the animal testing maybe rose tinted but surely the openness of these organisations should be seen as a positive. As information is normally very sketchy on a normally very secretive subject.