EUSAAT congress: Shaping the future for humane science
EUSAAT is the European Society for Alternatives to Animal Testing. This society’s congress brought together representatives from the European Commission, animal protection organisations, research institutions and industry. Together, we discussed how the rising ethical and scientific concerns with animal experiments, scientific developments and legislative frameworks can play a role in facilitating a shift towards humane research, testing and education.
Several of our members and other participants brought to this forum worrying issues deserving immediate action. Animalfree Research is shedding light on the continued harmful use of animals in high school biology classes, while non-harmful teaching media has been around for many decades. Building on this issue, InterNICHE takes a critical look at the ‘media’ that are used for education and training in secondary, higher and professional levels, and how teaching objectives can be better met with fully humane and innovative tools and approaches. PETA draws our attention to the difficulties in getting rid of studies on animals that have been proven to be ineffective, denouncing the continuous approval of projects that use the forced swim test.
Others presented positive developments in areas where non-animal approaches can become the new normal. Doctors Against Animal Experiments explored the use of non-animal technologies in COVID-19 research and in the production of antibodies. Deutscher Tierschutzbund was part of a session and panel discussion on alternatives to the use of animal-derived materials in ‘non-animal’ models. At Charité, in Berlin, PhD students are working with patients and patients’ tissues, but they are still striving for an adequate infrastructure to carry out their work effectively. Although these practices should become the gold standard when studying human biology and pathology, the current structures continue to favour animal experiments, leaving human-based research and researchers in great disadvantage.
Eurogroup for Animals was also present at this congress to strengthen the dialogue and the community that will shape the transition to non-animal science. We presented key elements for any strategy aiming at accelerating this transition, and the role of legislation and policies to normalise non-animal science.
The Chair of the Environmental Governance and Politics group at Radboud University led us through how a transformative governance approach can help accelerate the transition to animal-free innovation. In a keynote lecture, the new professor of Evidence-Based Transition to Animal-free Innovations at Utrecht University explained how science-based evidence should guide the transition to animal-free innovations.
Besides academia and NGOs, members from the European Commission, EFSA, 3Rs centres, and many other institutions have contributed with their views on how this transition will be shaped.