Category Archives: Pilas Staff Writer

Laboratory Animal Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge

PiLAS Staff Writer

The World Conference on Science for the Twenty-first Century: A New Commitment, took place on 26 June to 1 July 1999 in Budapest, Hungary, under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU). The participants produced a very interesting 7-page, 46-paragraph Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge, which is well worth reading.1 There were no specific references to laboratory animal experimentation, but a number of the general points made have implications in terms of this particular form of scientific activity, and deserve to be given careful consideration. For example:

– Preamble para 4: Today, whilst unprecedented advances in the sciences are foreseen, there is a need for a vigorous and informed democratic debate on the production and use of scientific knowledge. The scientific community and decision-makers should seek the strengthening of public trust and support for science through such a debate. Greater interdisciplinary efforts, involving both natural and social sciences, are a prerequisite for dealing with ethical, social, cultural, environmental, gender, economic and health issues. Enhancing the role of science for a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable world requires the longterm commitment of all stakeholders, public and private, through greater investment, the appropriate review of investment priorities, and the sharing of scientific knowledge.

– Consideration para 21: That scientists with other major actors have a special responsibility for seeking to avert applications of science which are ethically wrong or have an adverse impact.

– Consideration para 22: The need to practise and apply the sciences in line with appropriate ethical requirements developed on the basis of an enhanced public debate.

– Consideration 23: That the pursuit of science and the use of scientific knowledge should respect and maintain life in all its diversity, as well as the life-support systems of our planet.

– Proclamation 31: The essence of scientific thinking is the ability to examine problems from different perspectives and seek explanations of natural and social phenomena, constantly submitted to criticalanalysis. Science thus relies on critical and free thinking, which is essential in a democratic world.

– Proclamation 40: A free flow of information on all possible uses and consequences of new discoveries and newly developed technologies should be secured, so that ethical issues can be debated in an appropriate way.

– Proclamation 41: All scientists should commit themselves to high ethical standards, and a code of ethics based on relevant norms enshrined in international human rights instruments should be established for scientific professions. The social responsibility of scientists requires that they maintain high standards of scientific integrity and quality control, share their knowledge, communicate with the public and educate the younger generation.

The challenge to all stakeholders in laboratory animal science — be they scientists, research organisations, industries, industry associations, funding bodies, medical research charities, patient associations, politicians, governments, animal welfare activists or antivivisectionists — is to strive to work, not as isolated parties, but together, to live up to the expectations of those who met in Budapest in 1999. The question that all these stakeholders must not be allowed to avoid is this: In all honesty, is this challenge being met?

1 Anon. (1999). World Conference on Science Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge, 7pp. Paris, France: UNESCO. Available at: http://www.unesco.org/science/wcs/eng/declaration_e.htm

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Beyond the Three Rs

For a long while after the Three Rs were first proposed by Russell and Burch, anti-vivisectionists rejected the concept, on the grounds that experiments on living vertebrates which cause them pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm, were ethically unacceptable and scientifically unnecessary, so there was no point in reducing, refining or replacing them. In recent decades,
however, some organisations, such as the BUAV and PETA, have moved tentatively into the middle ground, and have made positive contributions toward the Three Rs, without comprising their fundamental beliefs.

The ultimate goal of Russell and Burch themselves was replacement, which they said, “is always a satisfactory answer”, with reduction and refinement merely being steps along the way. That was also the position of the founders of FRAME, the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, although the charity has made many contributions in support
of the other two Rs, since its foundation in 1969.

The latest issue of ATLA contains two important articles about the future of the Three Rs, as well as the latest in an important series of outstanding exposures of the insurmountable limits of laboratory animals as models of humans.

In this issue of PiLAS, Craig Redmond argues the case for replacing the Three Rs with One R (Replacement),1 but goes further in saying that only what Russell and Burch defined as absolute replacement (where “animals are not required at all at any stage”) should be considered acceptable, since relative replacement can still involve suffering, as in the use of invertebrates,
less-sentient vertebrates, or cells and tissues taken from protected animals and used in vitro or ex vivo.

Michael Balls goes further in his ATLA Comment,2 proposing that “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”.

Finally, the article by Jarrod Bailey in the latest ATLA issue, on monkey-based research,3 demonstrates that major molecular differences, revealed by comparative
genomics and molecular biology, underlie inter-species phenotypic disparities. The collective effects of these differences are striking, extensive and widespread, and show that the superficial similarity between human and monkey genetic sequences is of little benefit for biomedical research.
Therefore, the extrapolation of biomedical data from monkeys to humans is highly unreliable, and the use of monkeys must be considered of questionable value, particularly given the breadth and potential of alternative methods of enquiry that are currently available to scientists.

References
1 Redmond, C. (2014). ‘One R’ is the new ‘Three Rs’. ATLA 42, P50–P52.
2 Balls, M. (2014). Animal experimentation and alternatives: Time to say goodbye to the Three Rs and hello to humanity? ATLA 42, 327–333.
3 Bailey, J. (2014). Monkey-based research on human disease: The implications of genetic differences. ATLA 42, 287–317.