On World Week for Lab Animals, we remember the many thousands of mice, ferrets and monkeys whose lives have been taken to find a vaccine for COVID-19.
“These animals have no choice,” said Jordan Reichert, Deputy Leader,
Animal Protection Party of Canada. “They are used and disposed of in
the rush to find a vaccine. Much of the coverage of COVID-19, lab
animals are mentioned in only in passing as though their lives, their
suffering and their deaths were inconsequential. And ironically,
thousands of other laboratory animals are being killed because there is
no one to care for them due to the work restrictions.”
“Mice are not even susceptible to the virus,” Reichert continues. “So
researchers have to genetically manipulate them so they have the human
version of the enzyme that coronavirus uses to invade human cells. And
monkeys, who are some of our closest animal relatives are infected by
forcing the virus deep into their lungs to force them to produce
antibodies to test the effectiveness in preventing the disease and to
test possible vaccines.”
Who will protect these animals from misuse and abuse in labs where the
pressure is intense to find a cure? And who will decide what to do with
the lab animals who have no-one to care for and feed them? In Canada,
the Canadian Council on Animal Care is the national voluntary body that
sets standards of animal ethics and care in research. It downloads the
responsibility for the care, treatment and disposition of lab animals to
research institutions’ Animal Care Committees.
“The current animal care oversight by the Animal Care Committee (ACC)
can only function effectively if they meet and inspect the animals
frequently and feel that they have the power to stop the research if the
animal use protocols are not followed,” said Liz White, Leader, Animal
Protection Party of Canada. “The restrictions imposed by COVID-19 make
that oversight and decision-making responsibility almost impossible. Do
we really believe that ACC members are going to intervene in COVID-19
research if animal protocols are not being met and animal suffering and
death is prolonged?”
“The CCAC is asking the research institutions to fill out an Animal
Numbers Tracking Form,” said Reichert. “We need the CCAC to publicly
release all the data collected in the report so society can have an
informed discussion about the use of animals in research. Most research
institutions are funded by tax dollars and so the public has a right to
know how those dollars are being spent.”
Despite Canada failing animals in labs, there is hope for alternatives to animal research in Canada with Dr. Charu Chandarsekera recently establishing the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM) and Canadian Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (CaCVAM) at the University of Windsor in Ontario. As stated on its website, the centre’s aim is to “develop, validate, and promote non-animal, human biology-based platforms in biomedical research, education, and chemical safety.” This is the direction we need the scientific community to be taking and the government to be investing in.
We call on the government of Canada to publicly fund alternatives to animal methods of research and validation of those methods in the interest of science, the health of Canadians, and the lives of animals used in labs.
Animal Protection Party of Canada
Donate now to help us fight for stronger legislation protecting animals used in experiments.