Improving the quality of the debate and promoting the Three Rs (Refinement, Reduction and Replacement) are crucial to reducing disagreement on animal research, according to a report published today by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. The report, 'The ethics of research involving animals', was produced by a Working Party comprised of academic and industry scientists, philosophers, members of animal protection groups, and a lawyer. While agreement on some areas is impossible to achieve, the Report presents a consensus statement on a range of specific issues that has been agreed by all members. “The report aims to help people think through the ethical issues and makes recommendations for future policy and practice in the UK,” said the Chair of the Working Party, Baroness Perry of Southwark. The Working Party agreed that more can and must be done by all those involved to improve the quality of the debate about animal research. It recommended that clearer information should be made available on how many animals of a particular species experience pain and suffering during experiments, and to what degree and for how long. Researchers at animal research facilities must find more ways to open themselves to two-way dialogue in order to improve and sustain public trust. Animal protection groups and organisations representing those involved in animal research should produce fair and balanced information. The importance of the Three Rs (Refinement, Reduction and Replacement) to reduce suffering as far as possible, and especially the need to find Replacement methods that avoid using animals, cannot be overstated. Current law says that animals should only be used for research if there is no other way of obtaining the results and if the benefits of the work outweigh the costs to the animals involved. A range of alternatives have been developed in different areas of research but there is a continued need to question why more alternatives are not available and what is required to make them available. The Working Party recommended that: a thorough analysis of the scientific barriers to Replacements should be undertaken; published papers should include more information on how the Three Rs have been applied in the work described; the ethical review process should play a more active role in promoting the Three Rs; and the Government should consider which ‘markers of reduction’ can be set, for example, to reduce research that causes substantial suffering. “Historically, animals have been used in a wide range of research that continues to provide many benefits to society, particularly in studying human biology and the effects of medicines in humans,” said Lady Perry. “However, the way in which the costs to the animals are balanced with the medical benefits needs to be carefully judged. Aside from the continuing moral debate, we concluded that each type of research or testing still must be judged on its own merits on a case by case basis.” GM animals have been used in research on, for example, diabetes, deafness and psychiatric disorders, and the use of GM animals is rapidly increasing. However, the effects of genetic modification on animals cannot usually be predicted, and they can be difficult to detect and measure. The Working Party recommended that more efforts should be made to assess and monitor welfare implications in GM animals to enable this area of research to be better regulated. “It is not helpful to simply categorise people’s views as ‘for’ or ‘against’ animal research,” said Lady Perry. “There is a continuum of views between these two ends of the spectrum. The report does not state which viewpoint is the ‘right’ one, but invites the reader to judge for themselves. We have tried to analyse the ethical bases on which different opinions are held.” The Working Party concluded that it is unrealistic to assume that all animal experiments will end in the short term. It is crucial, therefore, to create a climate in which the necessity and justification for using animals is assessed and discussed rationally and openly, and with due respect for all views. The Working Party agreed that the threat and use of violence and intimidation by a small group of activists to pursue the case against animal research is morally unjustified. For further information contact: Catherine Joynson Communications & External Affairs Manager Nuffield Council on Bioethics 28 Bedford Square London WC1B 3JS Tel: +44 (0)20 7681 9619 Fax: +44 (0)20 7637 1712 Email: cjoynson@nuffieldbioethics.org

Notes to editors

1. Copies of the full Report will be available to download on 25th May 2005 from the Council website 2. PRESS BRIEFING Monday 23rd May, 10.30 Science Media Centre, 21 Albemarle St, W1S 4BS Members of the Report’s Working Party will brief the media, at the Science Media Centre, on their conclusions in advance of the public launch. This briefing is under strict embargo until 00:01 am 25th May. The briefing will be limited to national news journalists only and places should be reserved in advance. The speakers are: Baroness Perry of Southwark (Chair of the Working Party) House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Surrey Professor Steve Brown MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, MRC Mouse Genome Centre Dr Timothy Morris Laboratory Animal Science (LAS) UK, GlaxoSmithKline Professor Jonathan Wolff Department of Philosophy, University College London To attend the briefing, for more information or to arrange an interview after the briefing please contact Catherine Joynson, tel: 020 7681 9619, email: cjoynson@nuffieldbioethics.org 3. REPORT LAUNCH – THE ETHICS OF RESEARCH INVOLVING ANIMALS Wednesday 25 May 2005 10.00–12.30 The British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB Speakers include: Professor Sir Bob Hepple QC Chairman, Nuffield Council on Bioethics Baroness Perry of Southwark (Chair of the Working Party) House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Surrey Professor Steve Brown Director, Medical Research Council Mammalian Genetics Unit Professor Martin Raff MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London and Member of the Nuffield Council Dr Lewis Smith Syngenta CTL Dr Maggy Jennings Head, Research Animals Department, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Professor Jonathan Wolff Department of Philosophy, University College London Professor John Spencer Professor of Law, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge Professor Bob Combes Scientific Director, Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) This meeting is open to everyone. Admission is free but places must be reserved in advance. If you would like to attend and for more information please send your title, name, affiliation and email address to: E-mail: bioethics@nuffieldbioethics.org Tel: +44 (0)20 7681 9619 Fax: +44 (0)20 7637 1712 4. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body which examines the ethical issues raised by developments in medicine and biology. Established in 1991, it is funded by The Nuffield Foundation, the Medical Research Council and The Wellcome Trust. www.nuffieldbioethics.org 5. Members of the Working Party Baroness Perry of Southwark (Chairman) House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Surrey Professor Kenneth Boyd Professor of Medical Ethics, University of Edinburgh Professor Allan Bradley FRS Director, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre, Cambridge Professor Steve Brown Director, MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, MRC Mouse Genome Centre, Medical Research Council, Harwell Professor Grahame Bulfield Vice-Principal and Head of College of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh Professor R D Combes Scientific Director, Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) Dr Maggy Jennings Head of Research Animals Department, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Professor Barry Keverne Director of sub-department of Animal Behaviour, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge Dr Mark Matfield Executive Director, The Research Defence Society Dr Judy MacArthur Clark Chair, Farm Animal Welfare Council Professor Ian McConnell Professor of Veterinary Science, Centre for Veterinary Science, Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge Dr Timothy H Morris Head of Comparative Medicine and Investigator Support, Laboratory Animal Science (LAS) UK, GlaxoSmithKline Professor Martin Raff FRS MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London and member of the Nuffield Council Mr Nick Ross Broadcaster and member of the Nuffield Council Dr Lewis Smith Syngenta CTL Professor John Spencer Professor of Law, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge Ms Michelle Thew Chief Executive Officer, Animal Protection Institute, Sacramento, USA Professor Jonathan Wolff Department of Philosophy, University College London 6. Terms of reference 1 To review recent, current and prospective developments in the scientific use of non-human animals, including genetic modification or cloning; 2 To assess the ethical implications of these developments, and, in doing so, to consider arguments about the differing status of various non-human animals and the implications of such arguments on their use in research; 3 To examine ways of assessing the costs and benefits of the scientific use of non-human animals; 4 To assess ways of regulating and enhancing good practice; 5 To assess the ethical implications of using alternatives to non-human animals in different fields of research; 6 To identify and review developments and differences internationally in the use of non-human animals in research and its regulation; 7 To explore ways of stimulating public debate and providing information and education about the issues involved. 7. The Three Rs The Three Rs stand for:
  • Refinement: Any decrease in the incidence of severity of inhumane procedures applied to those animals which are used.
  • Reduction: The reduction in the number of animals used to obtain information of given amount and precision.
  • Replacement: The substitution of conscious living higher animals with insentient material (Russell and Burch, 1959).
8. Study into use of non-human primates in research The Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal Society, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust announced on 23 March 2005 that they are setting up a working group to examine the recent, current and future scientific basis for biological and medical research involving non-human primates. Members of the working group, which will be chaired by Sir David Weatherall, will be drawn from outside the non-human primate research community.
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