A couple of months ago we had the privilege to go to Paris and interview Professor Jean-Claude Nouët, Honorary President and cofounder of the Ligue Francaise des Droits de l'Animal, éthique et science (LFDA).
During our two hours discussion, Professor Nouët touched on different aspects of the use of animals in scientific research, including alternatives and the 3Rs. We will be publishing parts of the interview over the coming weeks, however looking at your comments and questions over the past months, we thought the following topic was a good one to start with.
That’s how Usher Syndrome, a rare untreatable genetic disease leading to deaf blindness, first became a part of our lives. You can imagine the emotional rollercoaster, taking us from feeling a sense of shock and injustice to the struggle of dealing with an ‘unacceptable’ situation.
Insisting that animals be used only when the results of experiments have guaranteed benefits for human health is to misunderstand science, even to undermine the drive for scientific knowledge.
Science is rarely as certain or a simple as some expect. It is never possible to know for sure how new knowledge will be used.
It won’t be long now until the annual European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA) conference which takes place on 9 November here in Brussels.
The EPAA is an independent platform which brings together the European Commission and industry groups to collaborate on implementing the 3 Rs Declaration. It has been running since 2005 and has done a lot to bring together people who don’t talk as much as they should – like companies and regulators, or scientists and EU officials.
Animals and humans are both mammals, which means biologically they share the same basic types of organs – heart, lungs, liver, kidneys etc, and that work in the same way, controlled via the bloodstream and nervous system. There are minor differences too, however these can give scientists clues about diseases and how they might be treated.
In reality research centres using animals must follow strict and detailed EU laws to ensure the most appropriate environment for laboratory animals and that their needs are met. For example mice and rats are housed in cages that contain shredded paper and pieces of wood to build nests and to find refuge. Animals also have opportunities to climb and explore.
Legislation demands that before any research study using animals can be approved, it must be evaluated from a moral and scientific standpoint, by an independent ethical committee.