- 2021 -
I have been part of the campaign #BOARD21.
This video is also available via Youtube:
Get on BOARD stands for “Be Open about Animal Research Day” – This social media campaign is supported by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) and biomedical community (https://www.eara.eu/), to celebrate the increasingly proactive approach to communicate about animal research.
I join this 24-hour global social media campaign because I am convinced that we have a responsibility to society, to our laboratory animals and to ourselves to communicate transparently about animal research. Taking responsibility is one of the key elements in animal research to balance human interests and animal welfare. The discussion about animal testing is highly controversial over a number of years. Research results, new therapies or diagnostic procedures seem to fall from the sky and there are tireless calls for a ban on animal experiments.
Clearly, animal research represent a special form of the human-animal bond: The benefits are abstract, remote and uncertain. The harm, pain and suffering for the laboratory animal is inevitably linked to the use in animal testing and it is of course debatable whether animal experiments are ethically justifiable. The global pandemic clearly shows that animal testing matters. We still need animal testing to develop efficient vaccines or therapies. Medical progress is not possible without animal research.
In view of the dynamic changes in the human-animal bond and the special position of animal reasearch in public criticism, we need to create trust in animal experimental research. This makes it all the more important not only to talk about animal testing but also to live a responsible animal research. To create trust, we need to talk about the opportunities and limitations of animal research. This also includes the development of a transparent error culture and informing about the ways we go about ensuring the maximum possible animal welfare. This ensures understanding and acceptance in society.
Hence, as a scientific community we must commit to promote animal welfare, research quality, staff wellbeing and transparency with the upmost priority in the sense of a living culture of care. With a code of ethics defined in this way, we will implement our own as well as legal and social requirements for animal welfare and protection.
In Germany, we have seen an increasing movement towards more transparency and communication in animal research over the last six years. Associations such as Tierversuche Verstehen als Informationsinitiative der deutschen Wissenschaft (https://www.tierversuche-verstehen.de/ueber-uns/) or ProTest Deutschland e.v. (https://www.pro-test-deutschland.de/) seek dialogue with the public and aim to provide comprehensive, up-to-date and fact-based information on animal research. Nevertheless, Germany still lags behind in comparison to other European countries. This becomes particularly clear how unfortunately still few universities, research institutions and research-based companies are open about the fact that they carry out animal testing.
A prime example of transparency and communication in animal experimental research is the University Hospital Jena (https://www.uniklinikum-jena.de/Forschung/Tierexperimentelle+Forschung.html). I hope that the introduction of the Transparency Agreement in Germany will be joined by many more institutions.
A change in behaviour towards transparency and honest communication brings opportunities for animal research and at the same time leads to human concerns and worries about being personally defamed. I myself worked for years in animal research and tried to reconcile research with my own demands regarding animal welfare and protection.
Not infrequently, I have reached my personal limits, but I have never lost faith in the general usefulness of animal research. It was and is all the more important to me personally to talk about animal research, to discuss controversially and to inform. This is our responsibility out of respect and appreciation for our laboratory animals and the research work we do. I therefore support participants in my seminars, workshops and discussion events such as the 6R Roundtable (https://www.berliner-kompaktkurse.de/6r-roundtable.html) to take this responsibility and find ways to communicate.
Each of us is an important ambassador for honest, valid and transparent research. Together, we must succeed in establishing a trusting dialogue with the public.