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German researchers warn of pressures to stop animal research

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Scientists have spoken out about how the pressure by German authorities to prevent biomedical studies using animals is becoming increasingly hostile and threatens the future of scientific research.

In an opinion piece (in German) for Table.Media, Roman Stilling (pictured left) of the advocacy organisation Tierversuche Verstehen, and also an EARA Board member, and Stefan Treue (pictured right), of the German Primate Center, commented that the national situation surrounding the implementation of animal research is ‘tipping over into regulatory frenzy, over-bureaucratisation and increasing legal uncertainty’.

“A country that strives internationally to attract the best brains cannot afford this impression of hostility towards science, but needs a lived and openly articulated welcoming culture,” Stilling and Treue wrote.

They also raised the point that despite scientific breakthroughs being celebrated by the public and politicians, the involvement of animal research in such developments is often not mentioned.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, approval procedures for animal studies are becoming longer, more complex and inflexible, and are subject to varying laws, which have slowed down research and present a stigma that animal research is no longer needed for basic research into diseases, and drug and vaccine development, for example.

The article highlighted that despite responsible animal experiments in Germany, that are conducted under strict regulations, there are greater efforts towards stopping them completely, which undermines not only the scientific progress that has and will be achieved using animals, but also the value of the research community itself.

This sentiment was echoed by Prof Tiago Outeiro, at the University Medical Center Göttingen, in an episode of the Neuroscience and Beyond podcast, who also spoke of the ‘frustrating’ timelines to get animal studies ethically approved by German authorities (pictured).

Describing it as a catch-22 situation, Prof Outeiro said that “authorities are not serving human society well by just trying to block animal use… What they should do is help and work with researchers to enable us to speed things up, comply with the 3Rs rule.. but we need the [animal] models – this is the bottom line.”

He also commented: “I think it’s really a mistake for Europe to be so influenced by those that are defending animal rights… We as scientists tend not to be as vocal, and tend not to come and defend the need for using these types of models.”

Closing the opinion piece, Stilling and Treue commended the growing move towards openness about animal research in Germany and wider Europe – such as through the establishment of a German Transparency Agreement – but stressed that such initiatives needed to be expanded upon in order to be fully embedded.

“This transparency of science also needs a political and public sphere that appreciates the dual responsibility of researchers to both provide the best possible animal welfare and to fulfil their research mandate,” they concluded.


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