Research animals’ rights defended

Rights group rallies against scientific experiments on animals held on campus

A poster put up by Queen’s Animal Defence on campus.
A poster put up by Queen’s Animal Defence on campus.

The use of animals for research at Queen’s has come under scrutiny by a recent Queen’s Animal Defence (QAD) campaign.

Created in September 2013, QAD aims to inform the community about the use of animals in Queen’s laboratories, and the treatment they receive as research or educational subjects.

Last November, QAD launched two poster campaigns on campus, one labeled “The Other Queen’s Community”, and the other “Notable Alumni”.

QAD’s main executive consists of seven people, as well as 35 volunteers, who organized the poster campaign. “The Other Queen’s Community” presents a picture of an animal, along with the question “Are we members of the Queen’s community?” The posters are structured like Queen’s University Alumni Association posters. Instead, they feature animals, and an experiment they were involved in at Queen’s.

Zipporah Weisberg, strategic coordinator and outreach coordinator for QAD, said the University hasn’t provided the community with full disclosure regarding experiments involving animals.

“We do consider animals in laboratories to be members of the Queen’s community,” Weisberg said. “The fact that there’s no transparency about what’s happening to these animals is a real problem.”

She said that QAD finds their information from the U.S National Library of Medicine database, called PubMed, which includes information about testing at Queen’s over the last 10 years.

On Jan. 23, Steven Liss, vice-principal (research), released a statement regarding the campaign, stating that Queen’s adheres to guidelines regarding the ethical treatment of animals used for research.

In response to comments from Liss, Weisberg said that current provincial guidelines, outlined by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), leave room for interpretation.

“[The CCAC] only provide guidelines, which means they are not binding to researchers,” she said. “The guidelines they do provide effectively give the green light to the most torturous forms of experiments imaginable.”

She said the Animals for Research Act only contains one regulation that is truly binding.

“The only regulation that it states is that anesthetic must be provided to animals if a procedure will cause unnecessary pain … that leaves open what exactly is necessary,” she said.

The posters in QAD’s campaign outline current abuses that they found in PubMed’s database, which include rhesus macaque, a species of monkey, that was subject to painful injections, cats whose spinal cords were removed as well as a beagle who was killed for tissue harvesting.

Weisberg said the organization’s short-term goals are to reveal the abuses that have been occurring, as well as to advocate for a shift from animal research models to alternatives.

Long term, she said the organization hopes to create a new regulatory framework for biomedical research.

Liss was unable to give comment to the Journal by deadline.

In the statement released earlier this month, addressing QAD’s campaign, he said that Queen’s researchers adhere to standards set out by the CCAC, as well as follow provincial legislation given by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and the Animals for Research Act.

“All proposed research projects involving animals are closely reviewed by ethics committees comprising research experts, licensed veterinarians and community representatives,” Liss said in the statement.

He added that the University takes ethical considerations very seriously, and that discussions regarding testing should be encouraged.

“The use of animals for research, teaching and testing comes with important responsibilities, and the University takes those responsibilities very seriously,” he said.

“The University recognizes that this is often an emotional subject, but must take into account the significant outcomes and benefits of this research to all Canadians.”


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