If Queen’s wants to prevent the spread of misinformation and build a reputation as a responsible research institute, it needs to be more open about what goes on in their animal research labs.
While many Canadian research institutes have increased transparency around animal research, Queen’s has shied away from similar progress. Using animals for research and educational purposes has been scrutinized ethically for as long as these studies have been conducted.
Currently, Queen’s has no publically available information about the species used, the amount they have or the uses of the animals they have in their care. This lack of transparency creates barriers to the public’s understanding of animal research purposes and prevents the University from being held to a standard of care for animal subjects.
The University of British Columbia continually publishes details about all their initiatives involving animal subjects on a website dedicated to animal research. The report includes information on which types of animals UBC has in their care, how they were involved in research and even ranks the category of invasiveness of the procedures used.
In this ethical leadership step, UBC has shown they’re truly dedicated to the refinement, reduction and replacement model adopted by Canadian research institutions that use live animals. Providing this detailed information allows students and community members to better understand what goes on behind closed doors on campus.
The use of large mammals, especially primates, has been of particular concern to the Canadian public in recent years. In 2012, Air Canada issued a statement noting that they refused to transport primates intended for research.
A 2012 Maclean’s article showed that Queen’s tried to fight this decision. Queen’s was using primates in their research projects at the time and argued that other transportation methods would cost up to 15 per cent more and would also force the animals to travel by truck, which would cause unnecessary distress. Statements like these are some of the only information we get from our University about research on primates.
At the very least, being honest about the status of animals in a research institute’s care shows an earnest effort to make decisions that reduce suffering.
It’s time for Queen’s to turn a critical eye to its non-disclosure policy on animal research. It’s in the best interest of researchers to have information available to students if they want to prevent misinformation from spreading and if they want to build a reputation as a responsible, ethical research institute.
Alex is one of The Journal’s Features Editors. She’s a fourth-year biochemistry major.
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