New resources promote ways to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research

New booklets to help people replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research have been developed by the New Zealand arm of ANZCCART, the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching.

The principles of replace, reduce and refine are known as the 3Rs:

Replacement: Where possible, replacing animal use with alternative techniques

Reduction: using the least number of animals possible while still getting useful, reliable data

Refinement: minimising potential suffering and improving animal welfare.

The booklets, which have been produced in collaboration with the Ministry for Primary Industries, will be provided to animal ethics committees, the research community, and to schools around New Zealand.

ANZCCART Committee member and University of Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles, who co-wrote the booklets, said that under New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act, animal ethics committees must take the 3Rs into account when they are considering proposals for research, testing or teaching.

“This means that animals should only be used when there are no alternatives, and that any harm to animals must be weighed up against the benefit to humans or other animals, and those harms must be minimised.”

The eight titles set out innovative ways to follow the 3Rs in many areas of scientific research in accessible and non-specialist language.

One booklet explains how to use a chemical analysis technique rather than testing on mice to detect the presence of toxins in shellfish – an example of replacement.

Another outlines how the light produced by fireflies (known as bioluminescence) can be used to non-invasively track the location and numbers of bacteria within infected animals without having to euthanise them – an example of reduction.

A further booklet explains that animal suffering can be reduced by using blood-sucking insects to collect blood from wild birds rather than needing to catch the bird, which is stressful to the animal. The insects can be smuggled into a bird’s nest and then collected later to extract the blood from – an example of refinement.

“We hope the booklets will enable researchers to think creatively about how they can follow the principles of replace, reduce and refine in research they are involved with,” says Dr Wiles.

“We also hope that the booklets will show school children and the wider public the techniques being used to reduce, refine and replace the use of animals in research, teaching and testing.”

The resources are being launched to coincide with the ANZCCART 2017 conference, being held as part of Queenstown Research Week from today until Monday 4 September.

Two international experts will speak on the use of animals in research:

* Dr Helena Hogberg (Deputy Director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore MD.

The centre promotes humane science by supporting the creation, development, validation, and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education. It aims to effect change by working with scientists in industry, government, and academia to find new ways to replace animals with non-animal methods, reduce the numbers of animals necessary, or refine methods to make them less painful or stressful to the animals involved.

* Professor Roger Morris (Professor of Molecular Neurobiology, King’s College London).

Professor Morris will be sharing his experiences of the UK Concordat on openness for animal research at King’s College London.

The university has been inviting politicians, journalists, interested non-science members of staff, and one branch of the Women’s Institute to visit their animal houses.

Initially he was one of the few public faces of King’s College speaking on this issue. Gradually, individual scientists have become more confident to speak directly themselves.

Other universities also started to speak up, so his role has diminished as the campaign for the Concordat gathered pace.

ANZCCART is an independent body which was established to provide a focus for consideration of the scientific, ethical and social issues associated with the use of animals in research and teaching. The New Zealand Committee of ANZCCART is a special committee of Royal Society Te Apārangi.

More information on the ANZCCART Conference can be found at https://anzccart.org.nz/anzccart-conference/

The booklets will be available on the ANZCCART website following the launch: https://anzccart.org.nz/

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