41st WDAIL renews urgent call for change amid COVID-19 animal experiments


41st WDAIL renews urgent call for change amid COVID-19 animal experiments

24 April 2020
Eurogroup for Animals
The 41st World Day for Animals in Laboratories (#WDAIL) falls in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, but that hasn’t stopped our network raising awareness and calling for concrete policies to promote a move towards scientific research that doesn’t use animals.

More than 23 million animals were impacted by science in the EU alone in 2017, and over 192 million animals are estimated to be used per year in scientific procedures worldwide. Many go through immense suffering. In some species, the physiology of the animals after some experiments has been compared to people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most of these animals are killed at the end of the experiment.

The limitations of using other species to study human diseases have been acknowledged in many scientific publications, but animal experimentation continues to be abundantly practiced. In the case of COVID-19, many of the animals used in recent experiments do not naturally contract the virus or human-like symptoms. Mice are being genetically modified to make them more susceptible to the virus, while the virus is also being mutated to attempt to produce human-like effects on other animals.

The list of species subjected to experiments to try to better understand the spread, and treat the effects, of this disease is growing. Mice, ferrets, monkeys, dogs, cats, and hamsters are some of the animals that are also suffering with the effects of this pandemic. For example, genetically modified mice infected with the coronavirus can experience laboured breathing, lethargy and death. These animals and their experiences also matter, and their suffering presents significant ethical issues for society as a whole.

There is an urgent need to focus on scientific techniques that can be more representative of what happens in the human body, and that can bring better and faster success rates with less suffering. Three-dimensional reconstructed human respiratory tissue models, advanced computer simulation methods, artificial intelligence, advanced in vitro methods, and drug repurposing are some of the techniques and tools that are being used to improve our understanding of how the virus affects our bodies and how we can prevent and treat the disease. This better understanding of human biology and pathology is essential for preventing and finding a cure for this disease.

Today, several of our member organisations are raising awareness and calling for concrete scientific policies that can promote innovation, move towards human-based science, and pay full regard to the 3Rs of replacement, reduction, and refinement:

  • Menschen für Tierrechte will be starting a series of webinars today, part of a joint campaign with Ärzte Gegen Tierversuche. In six talks over the next few weeks, the organisations will be raising awareness and putting pressure on the German government to work out a phase-out strategy like that of the Netherlands. The webinars will be streamed here
  • Animalia is launching a petition and online demonstration demanding to increase funding for alternatives to animal testing, as well as for Finland to fulfil its duties with regards to the EU Directive, mainly to reduce the amount of animals tested. Find out more here.
  • Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling for governments to prioritise and support advanced methods that are more relevant to humans to accelerate the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, instead of carrying out misleading and unnecessary tests using animals. Their petition is here.
  • THE RSPCA will be doing Stories in their official Instagram feed on Thursday and Friday, with a Q&A on Friday. They are also developing a blog on animal use in coronavirus research.
  • Catholic Concern for Animals has published an expert view, ‘Coronavirus and Animal Testing’, by Dr Andre Menache BSc(Hons) BVSc MRCVS, a veterinarian who advises extensively on animal welfare matters.
  • LAV is calling on the WHO and other authorities to focus their efforts on human-relevant research and to implement research models, such as 3D cellular models of the human lung and immune system or advanced organ-on-a-chip approaches, at this time of emergency. The organization also asks for a concrete strategy for a cultural, political and scientific change that respects the planet and all species.
  • GAIA published a press release and an opinion piece launching the first estimate since 2005 of the total number of animals impacted by research, testing and education. The numbers report to the year 2015 and indicate a rise of 37% in 10 years.
  • Deutscher Tierschutzbund is raising awareness of the infringement procedure against Germany for the inadequate transposition of the European Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. They also call for a strategy to phase out animal experiments. In addition, an Instagram Story tomorrow will be based on an article about animal experimentation that was recently published in their magazine.
  • Proefdiervrij will launch their new campaign tomorrow highlighting the rise of 55% in the use of dogs in experiments. They’ll take  questions on Instagram during a live Q&A starting at 16:00.
  • Dierenbescherming is publishing an article about their COVID-19 concerns, and sharing news about rehoming small mammals from laboratories and the use of dogs in research.
  • Djurens Rätt has a petition for a comprehensive action plan for phasing out animal experiments and reducing animal experiments in various research areas. The petition closes after the World Day for Animals in Laboratories and will be delivered to the Minister of Rural Affairs in the beginning of next week. They’ve also summarized the position of the parliamentary parties regarding continued funding of Sweden’s 3Rs centre, as well as their views on increased funding. 
  • Djurskyddet Sverige is raising awareness to the animals in laboratories also affected by COVI-19, and asks for a concrete political strategy to phase out animal experiments and increase research funding for non-animal experiments. You can follow their messages on their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Eurogroup for Animals is in full support of these actions, which show the importance of this day to remind all of the level of suffering that animals in laboratories still endure, and what can be done to end this suffering sooner than later.