Chairman's blog

Summer is a distant memory, and the schools’ autumn half-term holidays are fast approaching. Yet the members of the Netherlands National Committee for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (nCad), ably assisted by the Support Agency, have little time for holidays. During the summer, we worked on the advisory report concerning ways of improving the accessibility of data on animal procedures, and 3R alternatives (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement). At the same time, we were working on the advisory report concerning the options for reducing the number of animals sacrificed in stock, i.e. animals that were never used as laboratory animals.

Within the Committee, there were many robust and protracted discussions. These mainly involved the openness of data on animal procedures. Some argued for restraint, as the Netherlands is already a trailblazer within Europe in terms of openness. Others expressed a desire to pursue full transparency. After a little give and take on all sides, they reached what – in my view – is a rock-solid consensus! On 12 October, I had the pleasure of submitting the two above-mentioned advisory reports to Minister Sharon Dijksma. I anticipate that she will soon be submitting them to the Dutch House of Representatives, together with her response. At the same time, the advisory reports will be published on our website. We will keep you informed!

The NCad recently held a workshop that included the representatives of National Committees from other EU countries. This gathering took place on 8 October, in Brussels. It was attended by a total of 21 representatives, from 12 countries. All those present indicated that they are keen to cooperate in the field of animal procedures and 3Rs. We at the NCad are happy to take up that particular gauntlet.

On a different note: I read an article in the 14 October edition of the Volkskrant newspaper entitled “Laboratory animal studies often carried out incorrectly”. It accused researchers of assigning animals to control groups and experimental groups – before the procedure has actually started – in ways that are not entirely random, to avoid significant differences developing between the various groups (such as a difference in the average weight of the animals). The researchers also are accused of having prior knowledge of the treatment involved in the procedures. Unfortunately, no distinction was made between fundamental research and regulatory research. Without exception, the latter is subject to the internationally accepted standards of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP). These require full compliance with the above-mentioned aspects (and many others), as well as detailed reports. GLP was introduced in the 1980s. At the time, it encountered a great deal of resistance, due to the extra time and additional costs involved. The quality of regulatory research has risen sharply, however, since mandatory GLP was introduced in all OECD countries. Thus, I would urge that fundamental research, too, be carried out in the spirit of GLP. Funds and journals in the field of scientific research could include this as a requirement for the approval, funding, and publication of projects.

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