QCA supports the future of animal replacement science.
Members of Quaker Concern for Animals (QCA) were invited to the House of Commons on 16 January, to join MPs and leading UK research scientists for the announcement of a ‘world first’ innovation to further animal replacement in science. The reception, hosted by Kerry McCarthy MP, launched a ground-breaking partnership between the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research (DHT) and the Blizard Institute at Queen Mary University of London, to create the world’s first Professorial Chair dedicated to animal replacement science.
Left to right: Professor Mike Curtis, Director of the Blizard Institute and Deputy Vice Principal for Health at Queen Mary University of London; Kailah Eglington Chief Executive Dr Hadwen Trust; Professor Richard Trembath, Vice Principal and Executive Dean (Health), Queen Mary University of London; Dr Christopher (Kit) Byatt, Chairman of the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research (DHT); Kerry McCarthy Labour MP for Bristol East, Dr Brian May CBE, patron Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research. ( Photo courtesy Dr Hadwen Trust)
Introducing the speakers, Kerry McCarthy said: “This really is a landmark moment in the process of reducing and replacing the use of animals in scientific experiments. It will put the UK at the cutting edge of scientific research.” A legacy left to DHT by their supporter Alan Stross was designated specifically for this first step towards developing the next generation of scientists, leading to a global community of scientists seeking more ethical, human-relevant alternatives to animal testing.
DHT Chief Executive Kailah Eglington said: “It not only takes animal replacement science to a new level, it also represents a major breakthrough in uniting science and animal advocacy in working together to find cures for illness that replace the use of animals. “This branch of science is becoming increasingly accepted within the scientific community. It is vital that new and also existing researchers are aware that successful alternatives not only exist – but that more are needed.”
The Blizard Institute is home to 300 researchers working in the fields of genomic medicine, molecular and cellular medicine, immune systems, experimental medicine and population health. It has been a pioneer in the development of in vitro models using human cells and tissue and, in particular, the development of 3-D models. Professor Mike Curtis, Director of the Blizard Institute and Deputy Vice Principal for Health at Queen Mary, University of London said: “We look forward to this partnership which is an obvious extension of our past work with the Dr Hadwen Trust.”
Following the appointment of the Chair, the education and research will be enhanced by another ‘first’ in the creation of an Animal Replacement Science Department within the Blizard Institute.
This major breakthrough in medical science is particularly meaningful for QCA, not least since the group grew out of the Friends’ Anti-Vivisection Association, founded in 1891 by, among others, Joseph Storrs Fry and Joshua Rowntree MP. The vivisection issue has remained a central concern for QCA and, in September 2006, we helped form the inter-faith Universal Kinship Fund, at the World Congress of Faiths Interfaith Celebration of Animals at Golders Green Unitarian Church.
The Fund, administered by DHT, supports its commitment to replace the use of animals in medical research and, to date, has raised over £12,000 for a range of vital research projects.
Addressing reception guests, recently appointed DHT patron, Dr Brian May said: “Things have gone horribly wrong in the way we treat other species on our planet. This is a wonderfully forward-looking venture, establishing a key avenue of research and an academic discipline in its own right.”
Dr May continued: “The introduction of this Chair is vitally important and will help unite animal campaigners and scientists. This key avenue of research is an academic discipline in its own right. We hope it will spread, leading to a situation where animals are no longer used. If we must use animals, then we must move to more humane treatment.”
Left to right: Kailah Eglington Chief Executive Dr Hadwen Trust, Kerry McCarthy Labour MP for Bristol East, Dr Brian May CBE, patron Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research. (Photo: Dr Hadwen Trust).
Kerry McCarthy earlier told QCA representatives: “I am so relieved we now have this powerful credibility. It has been so hard to establish a credible base for ending the use of animals in medical research and the fact this academic post has been established will help so much. People still believe this is a purely emotive issue and reliable alternatives are not taken seriously.
She continued: “Despite the ‘three Rs’ that were introduced by the Labour Party” (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) “animal tests have actually risen.”
Ms McCarthy, who has been vegan for 21 years, is a keen animal advocate working for animals in many areas. She explained: “Being based in the South West, my main involvements are in farming and livestock – particularly in live animal export.” In addition, she works for horses and badgers.
Animal welfare and rights groups have long campaigned against the cruelty involved in experiments on animals and concern is growing in the scientific community, not least on grounds of danger to human health through continuing reliance on the animal model for testing. Biological differences between species mean that results from animal tests cannot reliably predict how humans will respond to a particular drug and, because many animals don’t get human diseases, these have to be artificially induced in them.
After the presentations, guests had the opportunity to comment. One pathologist from the University of Liverpool said the use of animals by pharmaceutical companies was actually holding back research and that reliance on animals was a real problem for human health. Rather than a concentration on the ‘big block-buster’ drugs, produced on a one-size-fits-all basis, smaller ‘niche’ drugs were needed to treat people more individually.
Kailah Eglington described the DHT and the Blizard Institute as “…both pioneers. We are willing to step out of the box for positive change – and we both want what’s best for medicine and society as a whole. The public increasingly wants a more ethical approach to developing medicine and we all want to eradicate dreadful diseases. Today is day one in the bringing together of the heart and the science.”
The Doctor Hadwen Trust is the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity funding projects to help both people and animals. It receives no Government funding and is entirely reliant on donations to continue its work.
Further information: www.drhadwentrust.org
Applications for the candidates for the DHT Professorial Chair in Animal Replacement Science at the Blizard Institute will be invited in March 2013.