Guidance for Animal Research Industry Personnel
Do you work in an animal research facility? Are you a researcher whose research uses animals? Do you work for a pharmaceutical company? Or do you serve on an animal ethics committee?
All of these roles hold a huge responsibility. Ethics committees are the only real level at which the validity and justification of the research can be challenged, and it is imperative that they are used for maximum impact. The use of animals in science is embedded in culture and practice, as well as education and regulation, and questioning its validity or necessity may be met with resistance. Whilst individuals working or volunteering in the animal industry may have the best intentions towards the minimising of harm to animal, sometimes external forces come into play which obstruct these intentions. From the information HRA receives, these pressures may include bullying, social pressure, lack of knowledge surrounding non-animal models, and the impact of hierarchies within institutions.
Pressure may be placed on researchers not to question animal use, despite any moral or scientific concerns expressed by the researcher. This is clear from the Test Subjects video, which features young researchers discussing the pressures placed upon them to use animals, despite the lack of relevance to their research.
Below are some tips and resources on how those working in the animal research industry can best serve the interests of both animals and the validity of research.
- If you have a grievance as an Animal Ethics Committee member, refer to the AEC operating procedures, which should be publicly available. There should be a complaints/grievance policy outlined which you can follow, which according to the Code, ensures fair, prompt, timely, effective, confidential processes that accord with procedural fairness, the principles of natural justice and protection of whistleblowers
- If you need to escalate your concerns, you can contact the State department responsible for legislating animal research
- If you live in NSW, you can refer complaints to the Animal Research Review Panel. There is no such body in other states or territories
- If you are a category C member and were nominated by an animal welfare organisation, you can ask them for advice
- HRA has webpages on Australian Regulations and Replacing Animal Models you can refer to
- HRA has a collation of Australian non-animal case studies you can refer to
- The HRA report ‘Better Ways to do Research’ is a good resource for all Animal Ethics Committees
- Use your experience to input into consultations into legislative reviews, or updates of the NHMRC Code of Practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.
- Ask to participate in any training
- ANZCCART has a number of resources relating to animal care and ethics
- ANZLAA has a range of resources relating to animal welfare, the 3Rs and ethics
- The UK National Centre for the 3Rs has some useful resources
- Suggest that the research is pre-registered to avoid duplication – there is not an Australian registry but projects can be registered internationally via www.preclinicaltrials.eu and www.animalstudyregistry.org
- Whilst based on UK legislation, there are some useful information sheets for AEC produced by RSPCA UK
- RSPCA UK also has a useful Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body Engagement Pack
- There are specific journals your institution can subscribe to with a focus on non-animal methods, such Alternatives to Laboratory Animals and Alternatives to Animal Experimentation (ALTEX)
- There are several databases of alternative research methods, including https://www.piscltd.org.uk/alternatives/ and https://www.nat-database.org/
It is important to note that conducting biomedical research without animals is not simply a case of looking for a direct replacement for an animal model, as explained in this article by the UK organisation Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments. It is about experimental design focuses on the desired outcome and challenging faulty logic. A like-for-like replacement is not always possible, and if that is what an AEC is seeking, not finding, then using as a justification for animal use, this if a flawed approach.
You can use your influence as a driver for change to push for specific detail on the method and deliverables expected from the research applicant as justification for the animal model selection. A recent study showed that the current choice of a specific animal model in a project application for the use of animals in seems to be based on traditional acceptance and standard responses rather than robust substantiation for the choice of an animal model.
HRA welcomes open communication with anyone involved in the animal research industry, whether that be a question, complaint you wish to see investigated, or insider report. Please contact us, or you can use the below form for anonymous contact. Complete confidence will be granted in either case.
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