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EARA study of EU-based websites 2024 - results in Belgium

Updated: May 24

A study of the websites of biomedical institutions in Belgium, by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), to assess how openly they discuss research using animals, shows that the content available to the public is improving, particularly among signatories of the Belgian Transparent Agreement on animal research.

The EARA Study of EU-based websites 2024, published today, analysed a total of 908 websites across the EU in 2023, and the report has now been presented to the EU Commission. In Belgium, 42 institutional websites were assessed, both public and private bodies, such as universities, research centres and pharmaceutical companies, and the main findings were that:

  • More than half (57%) of the institutions in Belgium have a recognisable statement about animal research on their website, in language clearly understandable to the public, which is one of the most important categories assessed. However, an analysis of the biomedical institutions in the Belgian Transparency Agreement on Animal Research (launched in 2019 and now with 17 signatory bodies) which have all pledged to be more open about their use of animals - shows that almost three quarters (73%) have a clear statement.

  • Three quarters (73%) of TA members also had extensive information on their websites (including frequently asked questions (FAQs) and useful links), while more than two thirds (67%) display the numbers, or species, of animals used at their facilities, with the information prominently displayed. When institutions that are not in the TA are included, the overall figures in each category drop, for instance, the figure for prominence drops to 55%.


Transparency agreements (TA) have been a successful launchpad, across Europe, for greater efforts to produce useful information for the public about research at individual institutions, and have led to a much greater commitment by institutions to be more open.


This success means there is also now a clear gap in website content between the six EU countries with a TA (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) and all the other EU countries without a TA - signatory institutions are now three times more likely to have a recognisable statement on animal research (79% compared to 26%) across the EU.


EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “The Belgian Transparency Agreement has made good progress to encourage biomedical institutions to be more open about their use of animals in research and the benefits to society this brings.”


Since the previous EARA study in 2020, stricter criteria have been introduced into the assessment categories, so it is not possible to make comparisons. When EARA first began assessing websites, back in 2017, the presence of good quality institutional website content on animal research was scarce, since then significant improvements have meant that it has been possible to raise the benchmark.

EARA is now confident that, if an institution can reach the required standard in all categories, they will be providing the public with the comprehensive information they need to make informed opinions on the use of animals in biomedical research. 

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)7970 132801


Notes to editors

 

About EARA

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 more than 170 member organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, in 24 European countries (19 in the EU) and four other continents.


EARA’s vision is that animal research is understood by society as still a critical part of the scientific process, leading to an informed and beneficial climate for innovation and progress for the benefit of human and animal and environmental health.


Signatory institutions of Transparency Agreements, co-ordinated by EARA, commit to demonstrating openness and engaging in a dialogue with the public, to bring about a greater understanding of the reasons why animals are needed for research.


The website study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.


The study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

 

The benefits of animal research

Most of the medicines we use have at some point involved research using animals. Animals are essential in research on Covid-19 for understanding the virus, and for assessing potential drugs and vaccines. They will help millions with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord damage and parasitic infections like malaria. There are three main reasons why animals are used in research:


  • To advance scientific understanding

  • To develop solutions to medical problems

  • To test medicines and vaccines in order to protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.


Animals are used when there is a need to find out what happens in the whole living body, which is far more complex than the sum of its parts. It is very difficult, and in most cases simply not yet possible, to develop non-animal methods to replace the use of living animals.


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