Right now, Timo Nevalainen from the University of Eastern Finland is opening the second morning session, on the 2Rs in regulatory testing. The 2Rs is the central theme of this year’s conference and stands for Reduction and Refinement – that is the 2Rs which applies when animals are actually used rather than being replaced. This is an important notion and I think there’s quite some tension here between a politically correct but not necessarily realistic focus in the official discourse.
Two of this morning’s speakers made this tension very evident. Emily McIvor from Humane Society International stressed that the ultimate goal must be replacement and Richard Fosse from EPAA stressed that in the foreseeable future we will continue to need to do research on entire animals. Both of these statements are probably right – but what frustrates many laboratory animal scientists today is that strategic funding initiatives are very biased towards replacement. But only to fund research on replacement is rather much like only funding research into alternative car fuels and ignore efforts to reduce the pollution from existing combustion engines. Moreover, it’s probably deceiving the public into believing that replacement of animal research is really around the corner.
The 2Rs initiative which Timo Nevalainen headed a couple of years ago was an attempt to change this. In a document signed by some 50 scientific societies and animal welfare associations, the European Commission was asked to consider funding Reduction and Refinement research in the 7th Framework Program for research. It wasn’t successful -still Replacement is the only one of the 3Rs which have dedicated funding from the European Commission.