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Position Statement on Animals Used in Research

The BC SPCA is opposed to any live animals being used for either basic or applied scientific research, including field studies on wildlife, where experiments or procedures cause pain, suffering, distress, or lasting harm. The BC SPCA recognizes the value of animal-based research (e.g., development of human and animal medicines), but the benefits must outweigh the harms. In particular, attention to animal welfare and minimizing harm should be a priority.

When live animals are used in research, the Society considers it essential that control of pain with anaesthesia, analgesia, tranquilization and euthanasia must be available and should only be administered by trained technicians, researchers or veterinarians. Any proposed research must always be assessed in keeping with the Three Rs principles: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. The BC SPCA advocates for transparency of animal research practices, in particular the publication of animal numbers by both public and private institutions using animals in research.

The BC SPCA is also opposed to the use of wild-caught animals of any species in animal research laboratories since the full provision of the Five Freedoms is not possible due to their complex social, physiological and behavioural needs.

Approved by the Board of Directors – September 2015

(replaces Genetic Engineering, January 1998 and Xenotransplantation, September 1998)

Background

Both public and private institutions conduct animal-based research in Canada, however, only government-funded institutions require oversight from the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). The BC SPCA encourages all private institutions to become participants in the CCAC oversight program.

The BC SPCA believes that all use of animals (live and tissues) in research should be subject to ethical review and post-approval monitoring, and that the animals:

  • when kept in confinement, be treated such that their physical and behavioural needs are met in accordance with the Five Freedoms;
  • be specifically bred for experimental purposes to make animals more genetically similar and to reduce the number needed to achieve statistically significant results;
  • be provided with adequate anaesthesia and analgesia agents, and prompt medical treatment by a trained professional to minimize suffering or discomfort whenever they demonstrate symptoms of disease or injury; and,
  • be euthanized by a trained professional without delay when symptoms do not respond to medical treatment or when suffering from untreatable conditions.

In addition, appropriate training should be provided to all persons involved in handling animals.

Further, the BC SPCA believes an animal’s welfare must be the first priority during the development and application of genetic engineering to animals. In the development of new genetically-engineered animal lines, there should be acknowledgement that unanticipated welfare concerns might occur and the animals should be monitored closely to ensure that any negative welfare impacts are mitigated as much as possible. The BC SPCA also has concerns about the implications of cross-species transplants (xenotransplantation) and advocates the promotion of alternatives over and above the pursuit of animal donor programs.

Background updated – September 2015

Definitions

Animal: A living being belonging to the kingdom Animalia Anaesthesia: Temporary insensitivity to pain or loss of consciousness, especially as artificially induced by administration of gases or injectable drugs.

Analgesia: The inability to feel pain, without the loss of consciousness, especially as artificially induced by administration of gases or injectable drugs.

Five Freedoms: A concept first developed in 1965 by The Brambell Committee, formed by the UK government to examine the conditions on commercial farms. Now internationally recognized, the Five Freedoms are considered applicable to all animals.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms (adapted from the original list) are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst;
  2. Freedom from pain, injury and disease;
  3. Freedom from distress;
  4. Freedom from discomfort;
  5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms form the basis of the Society’s Charter and describe conditions that must be fulfilled in order to prevent the suffering of all animals in human care. The Society acknowledges that these freedoms are not enforceable and that absolute provision of these freedoms may not be possible, but strongly encourages all animal guardians to strive to provide them.

Genetically-engineered animal: An animal who has had a random or targeted change in his/her DNA achieved through a deliberate human intervention.

Replacement: Preferred use of non-animal methods over animal methods whenever it is possible to achieve the same scientific aims.

Reduction: Use of methods that enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information using fewer animals, or to obtain more information from the same number of animals.

Refinement: Use of methods to alleviate or minimize potential pain, suffering or distress, and enhance welfare for animals used Xenotransplantation: The transfer of living animal organs, tissues and cells into humans.

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