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Replacement of animal methods at heart of the debate during EUSAAT’s Congress

This year’s strong topics of the 18th annual congress of the European Society for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EUSAAT) were the advances in organs-on-chip replacement technologies and the progresses of national 3R centres.

The forum gathers scientists, policy makers and animal advocates  to discuss the latest developments on 3Rs policy, science and ethics. Bringing together these stakeholders offers a rare opportunity to discuss – not only the newest scientific developments – but also how we are going to better support the uptake of alternative methods.

Why is the use of animals in science still considered necessary by some? Are policies accompanying science in replacing the use of animals? Are we doing everything we can to replace the use of animals in education? These questions were continuously addressed during the congress.

What became clear was that there is still a big gap within this community. One group that is ambitious and committed to move towards non-animal science, and another that is still skeptical about non-animal methods. However, the animal-free scientific developments, as well as the new ambitious 3R centers in Europe, combined with the multinational will for collaboration sets a fertile ground for an efficient and fast uptake of non-animal approaches.

During the congress, Eurogroup for Animals called for the end of the use of animals for the primary purpose of education and training. Luísa Bastos presented an animal-free educational model that can be applied in research, and human and veterinary healthcare alike.

Julika Fitzi-Rathgen, from the Eurogroup for Animals’ Swiss member Schweitzer Tierschutz STS (Swiss Animal Protection) – presented the developments in her country since the 80s, their support in the development of the new Swiss 3R centre’s programme, and what perspectives lie ahead to move towards non-animal science in the country.

Tilo Weber, from Deutscher Tierschutzbund, challenged the need to continue inflicting suffering to animals for our (novel) food, and explained why specific animal tests should be replaced. From the Animalfree Research association, Stefanie Shindler illustrated how cultural differences need to be addressed to establish strong collaborations, by presenting the experience of the organisation in promoting the creation of a 3R centre in Sri Lanka.

EUSAAT, Eurogroup for Animals, 3Rs, replacement, lab animals, research animals

Findings of a recent study carried out by Mainz Medical University, the Menschen fur Tierrechte, and Swetox, show that the knowledge of the 3R concepts are weak among the members of the Animal Welfare Bodies in Germany. This means that the implementation of the most basic principles of the EU Directive for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes may be at risk. Carolin Spicher hopes that this work will lead to structural and educational changes in the country’s Animal Welfare Bodies.

EUSAAT, Eurogroup for Animals, 3Rs, replacement, lab animals, research animals

Adelaide Dura from the Joint Research Center presented the promising projects the Centre is prioritizing to advance the use of animal-free methods. Susanna Louhimies from DG ENV confirmed the challenges on implementing the 2010 laboratory animals Directive in Member States with asymmetrical starting points. She also pointed out future directions where National Committees and 3R centers can work at international level to promote an ambitious implementation of this Directive.

EUSAAT, Eurogroup for Animals, 3Rs, replacement, lab animals, research animals

Herman Koëter (in a personal capacity) and Henriette Bout talked about the need to transition to animal-free research, and the developments in the Netherlands and in its National Committee for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes to promote such transition.

Finally, on the avoidance of severe suffering, Elliot Lilley, from RSPCA, addressed how refinement can be a gateway to replacement in drug development.

Click here to read the abstracts of all presentations

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