The first annual report of biomedical institutions in Belgium, examining how they explain to the public the use of animals in research, shows that they have already made good progress towards openness and transparency.
The report of the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Belgium, published today, assessed the efforts of 13 signatory institutions from both public and private biomedical research, to explain more openly their research work using animals (up until February 2022).
The implementation of the Agreement, co-ordinated by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) is based on four commitments, the first three of which refer to the promotion and improvement of internal and external communications by the signatory institutions, and the last which refers to the sharing of experiences and results.
While the Covid-19 pandemic restricted some efforts to implement the agreement, the most notable results of improved openness and transparency were:
· The survey revealed that virtually all but one of the institutions have a publicly accessible statement on the institution’s website, which explains the institution's involvement with animal research.
· The vast majority of respondents reported newsletters and internal publications or communications in their institutions, or talks and presentations about the use of animals in research to promote internal communication.
· Around 70% of the respondents mentioned the activities organised to encourage more public discussion on animal research.
Some good examples of openness were:
- A case study on its commitment to openness about animal research, Ghent University
- A statement on the use of animals in research on its website, Hasselt University.
Areas of communication that were identified as needing improvement were:
· Just under half of the respondents stated that they include research summaries on their websites, as a proactive way of sharing information.
· Only a third of respondents provide images of the animals used in their research.
· Just one respondent makes publicly available on its website non-technical summaries of authorised projects.
EARA executive director, Kirk Leech said: “We congratulate the Transparency Agreement in Belgium for making these significant first steps towards greater openness about the use of animals in research. A proper discussion about the importance of using animal models can only help the public debate on this subject.”
Speaking on behalf of the agreement, Kris Meurrens, of KU Leuven, and vice-president of the Belgian Council for Laboratory Animal Science. (BCLAS) said: “Having a transparency agreement and its commitments keeps us vigilant with respect to communication outside our facilities. The agreement triggers us to speak up more about animal research.”
Production of the report also coincides with the global day (16 June) to recognise openness in animal research - Be Open about Animal Research Day (#BOARD22).
The transparency agreement, including mainly universities and research centres is one of seven agreements in Europe (France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK).
In order to increase scientific knowledge and improve human and veterinary medical therapies as well as better protect humans and animals, high quality research, including testing for vaccines, such as Covid-19, requires an approach that includes the use of animal models. Scientists are required to always use alternative non-animal models if these are available, but a complete replacement of animal research is not yet foreseeable.
For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, (M): +44 (0) 77 1552 5535 email@example.com
Notes to editors
According to the most recent statistics for Belgium (2020), a total of 437,275 animals were used in Belgium for biomedical research, of which 58% were mice, followed by 16% rabbits and 9% domestic fowl (Figure 3).
The Transparency Agreement comprises four Commitments:
· Commitment 1: We will be clear about when, how, and why we use animals in research.· - Commitment 2: We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research using animals. · Commitment 3: We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals. · Commitment 4: We will report on progress annually and share our experiences.
List of signatories to the Agreement 2020 (Institution, Full Name, City)
GSK, GlaxoSmithKline, Wavre
ILVO, Instituut voor Landbouw, Visserij- en Voedingsonderzoek, Melle
INBO, Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek, Brussel
Janssen, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Beerse
KU Leuven, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven
Orsi Academy, Orsi Academy, Melle
Sanofi Ghent, Sanofi Ghent, Zwijnaarde (Gent)
UAntwerpen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen
UCB, Biopharma SRL Union Chimique Belge, Brussel
UCLouvain, Université catholique de Louvain, Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve
UGent, Universiteit Gent, Gent
UHasselt, Universiteit Hasselt, Hasselt
ULB, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussel
ULiège, Université de Liège, Luik
UMONS, Université de Mons, Bergen
VIB, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie, Gent
VUB, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Elsene
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information. It has 135 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 21 European countries.
EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe www.eara.eu