The Sympathy of Policy-Makers Towards Animal-Rights Activists, and the Future of Biomedical Research
An Animal Rights Article from


Humane Research Council (HRC)
February 2015

This letter to the editor published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology argues that despite the fact that the European biomedical community has "labored intensely" for many years to deliver on animal welfare standards, animal rights activists are winning the hearts and minds of the public and policy makers through "relentless opposition." The letter cites examples, such as the campaign to ban the transportation of primates for research, as occasions where animal advocates have caused damage to the larger research industry in the EU.


In a letter to the editor published in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology in 2014, Fabio Vivarelli, Andrea Sapone, Donatella Canistro and Moreno Paolini paint a grim picture of animal research in the European Union.

They say that because of the "real danger" of how politicians and animal rights activists have become aligned, the larger European research community is at a crossroads. The authors claim that the biomedical community has "labored intensely to develop uniform procedures for the use of research animals, aiming at clarifying ethical guidelines while ensuring ever improved human disease models for research and drug discovery."

They say that this has been subverted by "relentless" pressure from animal advocates, who wish to "sell off entire segments of biomedical research that are critical to human and animal welfare." In other words, they claim that despite the best efforts of scientists and researchers to improve animal welfare, animal advocates are sabotaging the process for their own ends.

After setting up this as the basis of their argument, the authors immediately attack "Directive 2010/63/UE of the European Commission" which lists animal welfare guidelines. They particularly critique guidelines for environmental enrichment, "because the validity and reproducibility of experimental outcomes depend on housing conditions, the data obtained under such provisions will be different than those obtained under traditional housing. Thus, if 'environmental enrichment' causes responses different from traditional experimental setups, it would further aggravate the already difficult interpretation, extrapolation, and credible divulgation of scientific results." In other words, if they could choose between enriching the environment for the animals in their care, or allowing bare cages, they would choose he latter based on a presumption that it preserves data purity.

From there, the authors decry the fact that cargo carriers such as FedEx and UPS (and it should be noted, some airlines) will not ship and transport mammals for laboratory use, effectively cutting off supply for different areas of the biomedical community. They also sharply critique a directive from the Italian Parliament, "which imposes a drastic reduction of animal experimentation, and with few exceptions prohibits experiments on unanesthetized animals, studies on addiction and xenotransplantation, as well as the breeding and marketing of cats, dogs, and nonhuman primates."

If the juxtaposition of claims - that on the one hand the EU biomedical community has "labored intensely" to improve animal welfare, and on the other hand, sharply criticizing simple welfare measures like environmental enrichment - seems jarring, it certainly appears to be at cross purposes. Though the letter is based on the premise that animal advocates are making research untenable, what it shows more simply is that animal advocates are pressing hard to raise the ethical bar for scientists.

The scientists writing this letter don't want to provide environmental enrichment for their animals, and thus seem to undercut their own argument that they will always do their best for the animals in their care.

See entire article here.

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