Chairman's blog...

After King’s Day, this year’s special Remembrance Day (70th anniversary) and the equally special Liberation Day (involving numerous festivals and lots of rain), everyone is now back at work. Well, OK, various members of the NCad did use their days off to work on their assigned policy recommendations, free from the distractions of their normal daily workload. And that is no easy task, because the pressure is considerable. Before the summer, the State Secretary expects to see two advisory reports on her desk regarding: (i) how we can reduce the number of laboratory animals used and (ii) how we can make better use of the mass of data on laboratory animal use and alternatives that has been collected by the numerous bodies involved in these issues. The latter project is so wide-ranging that it will result in two advisory reports.

I almost forget to mention that the State Secretary expects these advisory reports to take account of views and ideas from the broadest possible social field. So, how do you manage that? Thanks to the dedication and diligence of the Support Agency’s staff, a meeting was scheduled for 5 June in The Hague. Besides the representatives of RODA (Regular Consultation Body on Animal Procedures and Alternatives), which was established in 2011, various other community groups were invited to attend this meeting. Do you wish to make a contribution on 5 June, but has your organization not yet received an invitation to this meeting? You can find an invitation to the meeting on this website. It is quite a challenge to identify all of the various visions and priorities and, where appropriate, to incorporate them into the advisory reports!

Now for something else. In mid-April, the authoritative journal Nature published a short article in which various scientists in Great Britain voiced their concerns about the pressure from society to use as few laboratory animals per experiment as possible. They believe that this tendency could sometimes be counterproductive. This is because the results of such an experiment would have such weak statistical power that the work would have to be repeated with more animals. In total, therefore, this would involve the use of more – rather than fewer – animals. Now I know from experience that if you ask two statisticians for advice, you end up with three advisory reports. However, I certainly don’t want to downplay this problem. Fundamental, often small-scale, research into human diseases in particular occasionally encounters the phenomenon of too few laboratory animals. Incidentally, the vast majority of scientists adhere strictly to static conditions that were agreed long ago at international level by the OECD, WHO and other organizations. Nevertheless, it is still important for the design of experiments that include laboratory animals to be routinely subjected to critical evaluation in this regard. Fortunately, we have the DECs, IvDs and the CCD, each with their own approach and duties. These formidable watchdogs are there to ensure that laboratory animals are used responsibly.

DECs = Animal Ethics Committees
IvDs = Animal Welfare Bodies
CCD = Central Authority for Scientific Procedures on Animals

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