Tag Archives: undergraduate attitudes

The Cost of Standing Strong for Replacement

Katy Brown

To what extent does maintaining a stand against
the use of animals in experiments harm the
career progression of a young researcher today?

The experience of young researchers choosing to avoid animal experiments varies greatly, depending on the situation in which they find themselves. A series of interviews with young researchers, that were carried out as part of a Lush Prize Background Paper, pointed to the importance of centres or research groups dedicated to animal alternatives. It is clear that those students lucky enough to find themselves at one of these institutions have a much easier time in pursuing this career route. That said, there are still obstacles and challenges, including funding issues and resistance from those working outside these institutions. Those who choose this often difficult path outside specialist institutions may face a very tough time — in fact, two of the young people interviewed had no option but to decide on a career change, in large part due to issues around animal use. Individuals from a number of organisations involved in promoting alternatives to animal experiments and/or animal rights were asked to give their opinions on the feasibility of this career path choice by young researchers. What clearly came out of these interviews is that young researchers who wish to go into a career without ever being expected to use animals need to be determined, resourceful and tenacious. This is illustrated by comments such as:
— “You’ve got to get used to the fact that it may not always be an easy route.”
— “Forging an entire career in toxicology where you’re never involved in animal testing, is much more challenging.”
— “Some budding scientists may well be put off entering science, particularly toxicology, because of the issue of animal welfare.”

Interviews with young researchers

The issues surrounding this area were investigated in more depth by talking to six young researchers, not just from the UK, but also from Portugal, Denmark, Italy and the USA. Four were the recipients of the 2012 Lush Prize, and the two other individuals entered the life sciences, but chose to change career path, at least in part due to issues concerning animal use. Their full stories can be found in the Young Researchers Lush Prize Background Paper on the dedicated website (see here).

Sofia — the early-exiter — Portugal

Sofia started to study for a Biology BSc, but dropped out in the first year. At the point she decided to leave, she had not been asked to dissect or vivisect, but knew that before the end of the year she would be asked to do so. Sofia was concerned that the lecturers weren’t discussing these matters with the students and that the students were, in fact, apparently indifferent to the subject and perceived themselves as powerless. She felt that the general opinion of the student body was that dissection and vivisection were scientifically mandatory, and, even if they didn’t want to do it, there was nothing they could do to prevent it — and indeed that conscientious objection was something the great majority of students would not consider. In the end, she felt excluded from the course.

Joe — the committed conscientious objector — UK

Joe studied for a life science degree, then a related PhD, and finally took up a post-doctoral position. He avoided the undergraduate degree modules that would have involved dissection. During his PhD studies, there was increasing pressure on him to become involved in rodent studies, but he resisted this pressure, having stated at the start of his PhD that he would not be willing to carry out animal experiments. Initially, he was able to guide his own research in a way that avoided animal testing, by using non-animal methods. This did, however, get harder and harder as the research progressed, and he was encouraged “from the inside more and more to use non-human models to look at some of the key areas that he was investigating. He said that the position he ended up in, “essentially had me boxed into a corner from which changing career or carrying out animal experimentation (either directly or indirectly) were the only options.” He added that “the alternatives were pushed to one side, or not seen as being able to give the whole picture, by the people leading my research group.” Joe has changed his career path, and now works in the field of conservation.

Chiara — the well-supported enthusiast — Italy

Chiara works for Anna Maria Bassi, at the Analysis and Research Laboratory in Pathophysiology (LARF), in the Department of Experimental Medicine of the University of Genova, Italy. This laboratory is involved in the development and validation of in vitro models for use as alternatives to animal testing. Despite being based in this institution, with its non-animal research stance, Chiara’s major difficulty has been fundraising and finding partners with whom to develop new and competitive projects. She explained that, in Italy: there are very few research groups that promote in vitro models as alternatives to animal testing; the Italian Parliament has only very recently banned certain animal tests and endorsed funds for research on in vitro models with particular attention to the policy of the Three Rs and the European legislation; there are very few academic courses on alternative methods; and not very many research groups are devoted exclusively to working on in vitro models.

Felix — the motivated human research-focused scientist — USA

Felix has, since being an undergraduate, found it more useful to focus his research on a human-based approach, rather than an animal-based approach. He strongly believes that a human-based approach can provide more-relevant information, adding that he feels that “there was, and still is, some type of resistance by those that argue that much more information can be gathered from animal-based research.” He thought that “the most difficult steps are in the very early stages, such as undergraduate and post-graduate studies, where our scientific freedom is limited. However, for me, the post-doctoral stage has been most challenging, because our non-animal system has unfortunately been viewed with some level of resistance by some of our colleagues.”

Line — the animal-free testing convert — Denmark

Line started with the intent of working with animals, because she thought that she could help the animals — i.e. so that the animals used would be as few as possible, and would be as well taken care of as possible.” She then changed her career path, because she felt that it was stressful to be around animal suffering every day. She now works entirely on human tissue, which she feels is “very interesting from a scientist’s point of view”, because “when researching human health, the use of animal models will always be far less accurate than using humans.” She thought that the undergraduate level can be the most challenging when it comes to avoiding animal use, because “often you are not able to choose, as the institutions are streamlined and every student has to do the same courses.”

Liz — the slow-burner — UK

Liz studied A-level Biology, which involved a rat dissection. She was concerned about animal welfare and didn’t want to do the dissection, but she wanted to pass the course and go to university. She added, “It was said that we could apply to dissect a plant, but that we wouldn’t get as good a mark!” When she went to university, she didn’t study Biology. This was, in part, due to advice at her college that it would involve a lot of dissection. Having completed a work placement in the chemical industry and enjoyed it, she decided to go down that career path, but during the course of her degree she was more and more drawn to the options that involved a biological element.
For her MSc course, she chose Toxicology, with the long-term aim of working in a hospital and thus with humans, not animals. Her friend, who had completed the course, ascertained that there was no practical animal work involved.

She obtained a graduate job in a hospital toxicology laboratory, and then in a cancer prevention unit. Here, she was involved in examining human samples (breast tissue, etc.) from biopsies and surgery, for biomarkers of cancer, and she was also required to test organs from experimental animals. Liz said, “I was still training and learning, but felt that the experiments were not always well planned and the animal data derived were not always very informative.” She then decided to take more proactive action, and since then has completed a PhD in neurotoxicology, based on developing an in vitro brain model from human cells. This was followed by a postdoctoral position funded by the Humane Research Trust. After this first post-doctoral position, despite the promising nature of the brain cell model, Liz was unable to secure further funding, despite that fact that she “really felt that I had to get back to my original work, not only for myself, but also for the sake of those who’d supported me thus far.” Thankfully, due to the Lush Prize and funding from the British Brain Research Fund, she has been able to get her research aims back on track, at least for the time being. Liz added, “Because I have now chosen a career that specifically deals with developing replacement models, with a supervisor specifically involved in this field, avoiding animal use will not be an issue until I find myself unemployed. But due to it still being an emerging field, employment opportunities and funding are an issue, as is convincing our traditionalist colleagues of the worthiness of our research.”

Summary

The testimonies of these individuals largely speak for themselves. The responses point to the importance of specific institutions or research groups that focus on the development and use of alternatives, and these should, of course, be better supported. Those who find themselves outside such institutions or teams, are more likely to feel stranded and isolated. Then again, Liz did have the support of a research group dedicated to replacement, but she has still had a significant struggle to find funding. The interviews with some of these particular young researchers indeed pointed toward a tangible ‘cost’ in terms of having to steer their career on the often difficult path toward the use of non-animal based methods.

Katy Brown
Ethical Consumer Research Association
Unit 21, 41 Old Birley Street
Manchester M15 5RF
UK
E-mail: craig@lushprize.org

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Animal Use in Education in India: Confusion Continues

Dinesh K. Badyal

In India, there is an urgent need to get a single directive
on the appropriate and relevant use of animals in education
and research which is equally applicable in all institutions

Assessing and regulating the extent of animal use in education in India continues to be complicated, in that there are multiple regulatory bodies, various institutions governed by different councils, and numerous state universities. In August 2014, the University Grants Commission (UGC) wrote to all colleges in India, requesting a compliance report stating that they are not using animals in either undergraduate (UG) or postgraduate (PG)  education.1  In 2011, the UGC wrote to the same colleges, urging that animals be replaced with alternatives in phased manner.2  The recent notification was to ensure that this phased replacement has been carried out, and to ensure that there is currently no animal use in education, in either UG or PG courses. The Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) has asked all institutes that use animals in research to constitute an Institutional Animal Ethics Committee (IAEC) and to perform animal house registration every three years.3

However, the colleges in India are also governed by state regulations, and various colleges follow a course which is accepted by their respective professional councils — for example, medical colleges are affiliated to the Medical Council of India (MCI) and pharmacy colleges to the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI). Based on the UGC letter and efforts by PETA India, the Pharmacy Council has issued a directive to stop animal use in all pharmacy courses.4  The recent MCI directive asks colleges to use alternatives in UG medical education, but is silent about PG courses.5

The result of this is that animal use has almost decreased to nil in UG courses, but not in PG courses. The PG courses also have a research component, in which animals are extensively used in research projects. Certain PG courses, such as those in pharmacology and physiology, are currently heavily dependent on animal use. Hence, to replace animal use, a major shift in the curriculum is needed. A news item6  in the Times of India states that animal use in education and research is now banned in India, and that there can be a heavy fine and/or imprisonment, if these guidelines are not followed — however, there is no authentic government letter on which to base this claim.

Due to a number of guidelines and circulars being issued by the UGC, CPCSEA, MCI, and PCI, as well as the Times of India news item about a ban on animal use, it has become very confusing for staff or students working in the various institutions, and it is very difficult to draw any conclusions from this wide range of information. Hence, unfortunately, confusion about the use of animals in education prevails. Indeed, there are some institutions that are using some animals in education, although it is outlawed, and there are others that do not use animals at all. At present, if a member of staff or a student uses animals in education and research in an institution, he can be questioned by animal welfare organisations and other enforcement agencies about such animals,
since the Government has banned animal use for these purposes in India — in fact, there have been police intervention and cases in court related to the use of animals.

In a recent notification, the MCI has said that there is no need to have an animal house servicing UG medical courses — but instead, has advised that an ‘animal hold area’ will be sufficient.5 However, every college running PG courses cannot do away with an animal house, as the animal house is assessed during inspections by the MCI for running physiology and pharmacology PG courses. Animals cannot be bought for use in research projects or education, as prior permission of IAEC is needed for their purchase. However, as no projects involving animals are being carried out, animals cannot be bought just for the sake of an inspection.3  But on the day of inspection, if there are no animals, then questions can be asked — and so this is a very confusing situation indeed.

The staff and researchers in these institutions also have differing views on animal use. Senior faculty, who have used animals during their initial years of education and training, believe that animal use is essential in learning and research. However, most students and junior faculty do not agree with this view. The extrapolation of results from animals to humans is now being challenged. A number of organisations for the welfare of animals question the logic behind the use of animals in education, and even in research.7 Hence, in the present scenario, there is a view that animals have equal rights and hence we should not subject them to the ill-effects of research. However, there is a feeling that there should not be a blanket ban on the use of animals, but that by keeping in view the ‘4Rs’, there should not only be appropriate and relevant  replacement, reduction and refinement,8  but also the effective rehabilitation of animals used in education and in research experiments. This is a currently neglected area of concern.

We now have commercially-available software for computer-simulated experiments on animals, for use in educational institutions.7 High-end manikins that can mimic various conditions are also now available.9  These methods are initially costly, but are economical in the long run. An institution spends a huge amount of money buying animals and maintaining animal houses. However, in research, there are no better alternatives, except for cell lines and cell cultures, and cell culture techniques are also costly.10

However, in my view, even the cell culture phase should now be over, and we should move ahead through the use of simulations that are closer to real life. If movies like Avatar can push toward extremes of simulation, then why can we not use such simulations in education and research? There is a trend to create animal simulations to replace live animal use for medical courses, as it is perceived that medical students object to being taught about the effects of drugs on blood pressure and heart rate, etc., by using live animals. So, to address this objection, we initially created computer simulations of animal models. But then an idea came to us — why not design human simulations instead of animal simulations? We now use computer-based animations of human models in our objective to teach medical students the effects of drugs in human beings.

Thus, in addition to multiple directives, these differing views of staff and students have added to already existing confusion about the use of animals in teaching and research. Hopefully, as awareness levels increase, there should be a change in the views of regulatory bodies, institutions, faculty, researchers and students. Here in India, the need of the hour is to get a single directive on the appropriate and relevant use of animals in education and research, which is equally applicable in all institutions in India.

Professor Dinesh K. Badyal
Department of Pharmacology
Christian Medical College
Ludhiana 141008
India
E-mail: dineshbadyal@gmail.com

 

 

References
1 UGC (2014). The UGC letter on dissection and animal experimentation in zoology/life sciences and allied disciplines in undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes. New Delhi, India: University Grants Commission. Available at: http://www.ugc.
ac.in/pdfnews/6819407_ugcletterzoology.pdf (Accessed 02.12.14).
2 UGC (2011). Guidelines for Discontinuation of Dissection and Animal Experimentation in Zoology/ Life Sciences in a Phased Manner, 9pp. New Delhi, India: University Grants Commission. Available at: www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/6686154_guideline.pdf (Accessed 02.12.14).
3 Government of India (2014). Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA). New Delhi, India: Government of India, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change. Available at: http://envfor.nic.in/division/
committee-purpose-control-and-supervisionexperiments-animals-cpcsea (Accessed 02.12.14).
4 Pharmacy Council of India (2014). Notification, New Delhi, the 25 August 2014. No.10-1/2012-PCI (Pt-I). In The Gazette of India, Part III, Section 4, No. 19. New Delhi, India: Government of India Press. Available at: http://www.pci.nic.in/Circulars/gazette_animals.pdf
(Accessed 02.12.14).
5 Medical Council of India (2014). Notification, New Delhi, the 18 March 2014. No. MCI-34(41)/2013-Med./64022. In The Gazette of India, Part III, Section 4, No. 19. New Delhi, India: Government of India Press. Available at: http://www.mciindia.org/Rulesand-
Regulation/Gazette%20Notifications%20-%20Amendments/msr-50-100-150-200-250.pdf (Accessed 02.12.14).
6 Bigga, L. (2012). Government bans use of live animals for education, research. Gurgaon, India: The Times of India. Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes. com/india/Govt-bans-use-of-live-animals-foreducation-research/articleshow/12696452.cms
(Accessed 02.12.14).
7 Badyal, D.K., Modgill, V. & Kaur, J. (2009). Computer simulation models are implementable as replacements for animal experiments. ATLA 37, 191–195.
8 Russell, W.M.S. & Burch, R.L. (1959). The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, 238pp. London, UK: Methuen.
9 Anon. (2013). 2012 Lush Training Prize winner: InterNICHE, UK. ATLA 41, 515–516.
10 Arora, T., Mehta, A.K., Joshi, V., Mehta, K.D., Rathor, N., Mediratta, P.K. & Sharma, K.K. (2011). Substitute of animals in drug research: An approach towards fulfillment of 4R’s. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 73, 1–6.

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