Complete abandonment of animal testing is a distant goal
Animal testing is still relatively widespread in medical research to this day, although there is growing concern among the population about the suffering suffered by animals. In a current communication, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends urgently doing further research on the protection of laboratory animals and thus taking into account the relevant EU directive as well as the amended German Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Welfare Experimental Animal Ordinance.
Although the EU directive on the protection of laboratory animals aims to completely abandon animal experiments, the member states have discretion in the implementation and it is not questioned that animal experiments in basic research as well as protecting the environment and human health and Animal are still necessary. However, the 3R strategy (replace, reduce, refine) of the EU directive should lead to significant improvements in the protection of laboratory animals. In the opinion of the BfR, however, intensification of research efforts is urgently required in order to objectively assess the suffering of animals and to develop alternatives to animal testing.
Objectively measure the pain and suffering of the test animals
According to the 3R principle of the EU directive, animal experiments should be replaced or significantly reduced in the future. In places where they have so far been irreplaceable, a significant improvement in terms of animal welfare is planned. This includes a reduction in the number of test animals required, but also a reduction in the suffering of the animals during the tests. However, according to BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel "no scientific clarity about how changes in the physiological state of animals can be measured objectively and how these changes can be related to the resulting level of pain, suffering or damage." A first scientific contribution to the assessment of the stress In the case of genetically modified fish, BfR researchers have now published together with other experts in the specialist magazine "The EMBO Journal".
Freedom in the implementation of the EU directive
Instead of a strictly binding regulation, the European Union has issued a directive for the protection of laboratory animals, which allows some freedom in implementation. According to the BfR, the member states are given the necessary flexibility to implement the aims of the directive in national law. In Germany, the amended Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Welfare Experimental Animal Ordinance came into force in 2013. However, the regulations issued by the German legislature in the course of the implementation must now be put into practice and interpreted in a juridical way, the BfR emphasizes in its current communication. The indefinite legal terms are necessary in order to be able to take new scientific knowledge into account at any time. But these insights should now also be delivered.
Close cooperation between the various specialist disciplines is required
According to the BfR, "experts in the natural sciences, veterinary medicine and law must work more closely with the support of the responsible authorities to create standards for the implementation of the new legislation and put it into practice." The close cooperation between the various specialist disciplines in order to establish the new legislation and the associated culture of care in dealing with experimental animals in practice. In addition, further research efforts to promote alternatives to animal testing and animal research are needed. The BfR has also published corresponding proposals in the specialist journal “The EMBO Journal” and in the specialist magazine “EMBO Reports”.
The BfR describes the possible interaction of the various specialist disciplines as follows: Legal science can propose the definitions of the corresponding terms for those who apply the legal requirements. With their specialist knowledge, the natural scientists and physicians can make a contribution to the objective measurement of the well-being of animals, and the licensing and supervisory authorities are responsible for embedding the recommendations of science in their enforcement tasks, if necessary. "In order to strengthen animal welfare, all the disciplines involved should work on a solution," concluded the BfR. (fp)