Opinion provided by NCad as to how the Netherlands can become a pioneer in non-animal research

‘Legally prescribed animal testing for safety research on chemical substances, food ingredients, pesticides and medicines (including veterinary medicines) can be phased out by 2025’, says Herman Koëter, Chairman of the Netherlands National Committee for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (NCad). The same is true for animal testing prior to the release of organic products, such as vaccines. The pre-clinical research required by law cannot be phased out at the same speed. For basic scientific research, the possibilities for reducing animal testing vary from one research domain to the next. Here, targets must be set for each domain for how animal testing can be reduced. These are the conclusions stated in the advisory report ‘Transition to non-animal research – About the possibilities for phasing out animal procedures and stimulating innovation without laboratory animals’ by the NCad, which was presented today (15 December 2016) to Dutch Minister of Agriculture Martijn van Dam at the Nieuwspoort press centre in The Hague. The NCad drew up the advisory report at the Minister’s request. The committee was asked to put together a roadmap for the reduction in the number of procedures involving animals, and identify the possibilities for becoming the world leader in innovation without the aid of laboratory animals by 2025.

According to the NCad, in order to transition to research that no longer uses procedures that involve animals, it will be necessary to let go of existing attitudes and practices. The government and society will also have to take a different approach to risk. The transition to testing without animal procedures will not happen of its own accord, and requires focus and a clear strategic direction. The NCad advises that the Minister should take the lead, and also involve other ministries in order to develop a government-wide coherent policy that links animal testing policy to other policy issues, such as innovation and sustainability. The NCad is making recommendations in three areas: ‘Clear transition goals’; ‘Transition strategy’, and ‘Management of the transition’.

In order to accelerate the transition, among other things the NCad has advised the Minister to lobby internationally for the revision of the current regulatory risk assessment procedure. Furthermore, a more chain-oriented approach to the innovation policy will encourage multidisciplinary collaboration which, in turn, will make it easier for innovations without animal procedures to progress from the development stage to practical application. Monitoring, evaluation and providing access to expertise in innovation that is free of animal procedures, as well as Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the ‘3 Rs’), also play a crucial role in improving insight into progress in this area.

In the Netherlands, about 600,000 laboratory animals are used each year. Animal testing is subject to strict regulation. The three 3 Rs are key in the legislation governing procedures involving laboratory animals. Replacement: animal testing is only permitted if there is no equivalent method that does not require animal procedures. Reduction: using as few animals as possible; and Refinement: the procedure must cause the animals as little discomfort, pain and stress as possible. Much of our current knowledge on the functioning of the body and the cause and treatment of diseases has resulted from research involving laboratory animals. However, these experiments have involved animal suffering that has ranged from minor to extreme. In its advisory report, the NCad concludes that, in spite of the existing laws and regulations, there are many opportunities for accelerating the transition to animal-free research. This is achievable with the broad, coordinated involvement of the various ministries and other parties involved in animal testing and the 3 Rs.

Aanbieding advies 'Transitie naar proefdiervrij onderzoek'
Image: ©NCad