Today sees the launch of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, an initiative lead by Understanding Animal Research to enhance communication about animal research across the bioscience sector. Over 70 UK bioscience organisations including the BioIndustry Association have committed to be more open about their use of animals in research. Liz Harley from Understanding Animal Research explains more about the role of the Concordat and how to find out more.
Understanding Animal Research is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to explain how and why animals are used in scientific research. We aim to provide everyone, from policy makers to the media to school children, with accurate, unbiased information about the realities of animal research.
In 2012 the tracking survey of public views on the use of animals in research conducted by Ipsos MORI showed that while the public were broadly supportive of animal research, they were keen to know more about what goes on in animal research facilities. Further ComRes polling commissioned by Understanding Animal Research showed that many myths about animal research still persist in the public imagination, with two thirds of those surveyed unaware that cosmetic testing has been illegal in the UK since the late 1990s.
The 72 Concordat signatories, including universities, charities, learned societies, research councils and commercial organisations have agreed to uphold four commitments contained within the Concordat:
- We will be clear about when, how and why we use animals in research;
- We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research suing animals;
- We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals; and
- We will report on progress annually and share our experiences.
Under each commitment is a series of actions that signatories can take to fulfil them, from identifying spokespeople to answer questions about the use of animals in research, to providing more images and video that show the reality of animal research. Finally, encouraging signatories to share their own individual experiences and progress will help all those involved to progress towards being more open.
Openness in itself is not new within the sector. Many of the signatories have been active in explaining the animal research that they do for a number of years. Earlier this year the University of Oxford invited the BBC to film inside their primate facility. Last year the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK produced an informative leaflet about the animal work that underpins dementia research, and the British Heart Foundation placed a zebrafish front and centre of their ‘Mending Broken Hearts’ advertising campaign. The aim of the Concordat is to make practices like these ubiquitous across the sector.
A lack of communication around animal research has created a vacuum that many anti-vivisection organisations have sought to fill with a wide variety of pseudoscience and misinformation.
“For many years, the only ‘information’ or images that the public could access about animal research were provided by organisations opposed to the use of animals in scientific progress”, notes Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research.
“This is why many people still think that animal research means testing cosmetics and tobacco, despite the fact that these have been banned in the UK for more than 15 years.”
The bioscience sector has the opportunity to dispel these myths through enhanced communication with the public and the media, and show the public the kinds of ground-breaking research that are being done on their behalf.
Further information about the development of the Concordat can be found on the Understanding Animal Research website here. New signatories to the Concordat are welcome at any time. For more information or for copies of the Concordat please contact Dr Elisabeth Harley.