FRAME’s Alternatives Timeline Project

FRAME’s proposed online resource
on alternatives will be easy to access,
visually appealing and content rich

The use of animals in experiments is well documented. Its history and evolution can be traced through to contemporary techniques. Centuries ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans first began exploratory surgery on animals, to discover the inner workings of living things. Notably, the Roman physician, Galen of Pergamon (ca 130–201AD), investigated the complexities of the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems by dissecting living animals. He has been subsequently labelled the father of vivisection.1  By the 17th and 18th centuries, experimentation on animals was popularised within a wide variety of disciplines. With it, the debate originated as to whether these techniques were morally, religiously and scientifically right. Defenders of vivisection believed that the purpose of animals on Earth was to serve man in whatever means necessary.

The effectiveness of these techniques, however, has been questioned for hundreds of years. Protests, official inquiries, scientific studies and debates have been ongoing since before the turn of the 20th century. The first public debate on the topic took place in Florence in 1863, while the first anti-vivisection organisations emerged in Britain in 1875.2 Many academics, and a large proportion of the general public, have not been convinced of the validity, economic rationale and necessity of experimentation on animals. Arguably, the most important question that has been raised is, “Are animal models representative of human systems?”

Those that argue in favour of vivisection and its relative necessity stand firm on its foundation of past ‘successes’. Claims that much modern advancement in drug development and medicine would not have been possible without experimentation on animals are strengthened, because of the depth of the well from which to draw successes. In other words, due to the large quantity of animal experiments that have been performed — some of which have led to notable discoveries — there is enough evidence to support the methodology. It is only in recent decades that the debate regarding the relative scientific correlation between species, i.e. the results of a non-human study being relevant to humans, has gained momentum.

There are a number of reasons behind this. First, with the ever-expanding availability and transfer of knowledge through the internet and other media, public awareness of the use of experimental animals has brought the topic into the spotlight. As governments and businesses are put under growing pressure from the public to provide proof and/or explanations for the necessity of animal use in experiments, more and more questions are being asked. Second, the development of more universal directives to protect animals has advanced the examination of such animal use. The European Union, for instance, has put in place mandatory uniformity across nations that previously varied significantly in their approach to animal welfare — for example, Directive 2010/63/EU and Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009.3, 4 Third, and almost certainly the most important reason, is the growth in available alternatives to the use of animals. By questioning whether animals are effective models of human systems, we can then ask; “If not, then what should we be using instead?”

Before Russell and Burch first outlined the concept of the Three Rs in detail in 1959,5 scientists and researchers had already developed successful alternatives to the use of animals in experiments. At FRAME, it has come to our attention that although these alternatives exist, it is relatively difficult and time-consuming to discover and/or learn about them. What if there was one tool that a student, researcher or member of the public could utilise to effectively search for and learn about past alternatives, ones that are available now, and those proposed for the near future? FRAME believes that is it imperative to accurately define and present this history as an interactive timeline. This timeline will fulfil a number of goals by:

— acting as a review of effective alternatives;

— providing a primary resource for researchers;

— raising the profile of FRAME and the pursuit of the implementation of alternatives;

— providing a database of definitions and ongoing research;

— cross-referencing ineffective animal models and their alternatives;

— clearly defining when and where the alternative was formulated, and who were involved and;

— clearly defining which of the Three Rs are in practice.

Figure 1: Important characteristics of FRAME’s new alternatives timeline

Ease of access: a well thought-out design to promote efficiency, in a format that anyone can use.

Visually appealing: a contemporary design that is as pleasing to look at as it is to use.

Content rich: this will be the most important component of the timeline. Many timelines are limited in the sense that they are not dynamic in their content. We envision a timeline that will display as much or as little content as the user wishes.

Evidently, there are a number of benefits to this project. We are unaware of any other resource that brings together so many essential components to progress and inform the field of alternatives to animals in experimentation. We envision a timeline that, at its core, balances ease of access, appealing visuals, and rich content. This coincides perfectly with the proposed launch of FRAME’s new website design. A well-constructed and maintained interactive timeline will provide an opportunity to better understand where alternative research began, its progress and current trends.

The timeline will focus on each of the Three Rs and present key dates related to their use or adaptation. There is a considerable volume of information available about major advancements in replacement, reduction, and refinement, yet this information is scattered and not easily connected. The alternatives timeline will collect and compartmentalise this information in one source. Science promotes evolution and avoids anything static. Why should we be content with techniques that have changed very little for hundreds of years and rarely yield any usable results? As we move forward in the 21st century, we need to continue to advance and make the most of available technology. The FRAME alternatives timeline will use the power of the internet to connect everyone in the world to a single modern resource. We believe that it is vital that this information be made available to everyone, in a medium that can produce the maximum amount of support and clarity.

The alternatives timeline will provide a platform for anyone with an interest in improved science and animal welfare, who wish to gain a better understanding of how to shift research focus away from animal models and toward non-animal ones. Many scientists who actively use animals claim that they would prefer not to if they had the option. By simply searching this easy-to-use interactive timeline, a researcher would be able to discover available alternative techniques in seconds, including a concise line drawing each technique back to its genesis with accurate dating, a precise description of the technique with all uncommon words defined, and links to further information (i.e. relevant studies). This could prove to be an invaluable tool in the first step in many new transitions away from animal experimentation, while solidifying those transitions that already have taken place.

The proposed alternatives timeline is in the planning stages, and we welcome feedback from any potential users or other interested parties with regard to its content and its layout, in order to make the end result as informative as we possibly can.

Kevin Coll

FRAME
96–98 North Sherwood Street
Nottingham NG1 4EE
UK

E-mail: kevin@frame.org.uk

 

References

1 Rupke, N.A. (1987). Vivisection in Historical Perspective, p. 15. Kent, UK: Croom Helm Ltd.
2 Rupke, N.A. (1987). Vivisection in Historical Perspective, p. 2. Kent, UK: Croom Helm Ltd.
3 Anon. (2010). Directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Official Journal of the European Union L276, 20.10.2010, 33–79.
4 Anon. (2009). Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on cosmetic products (text with EEA relevance). Official Journal of the European Union L342, 22.12.2009, 59–209.
5 Russell, W.M.S. & Burch, R.L. (1959). The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, 238pp. London, UK: Methuen.

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