Areas of Activity
The Senate Commission on Animal Protection and Experimentation advises the statutory bodies of the DFG as well as parliaments and authorities at EU, federal and state levels on all issues relating to animal welfare and experimentation. It contributes perspectives from the scientific community to legislative processes. The Senate Commission provides advice to researchers as well as universities and research institutions on specific issues or problematic cases. The Commission promotes the sound training of early career researchers in research using animals by (further) developing specific training programmes. It also supports open dialogue with the public by contributing its expertise to the preparation of soundly researched information materials and in public meetings and debates.
Science Policy Work
In past years, the Senate Commission focused on the reforms to the legal requirements at European and national level and their consequences for research. During the reform of EU directive 2010/63/EU (Directive on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes), the Senate Commission, together with the Max Planck Society and the Leibniz Association, released a statement on behalf of the research community, addressing the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
Although the research organisations generally welcomed the revision of the existing directive, they also highlighted problematic consequences for research, for example the special treatment of individual species, which from a scientific perspective was not justified, and the considerable increase in bureaucracy, which did not result in an improvement to animal welfare.
After EU Directive 2010/63/EU was passed, the Senate Commission was involved in the implementation process at national level. In cooperation with the members of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, the Senate Commission coordinated the writing of an extensive statement, delivering it to the German Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) as a joint viewpoint. Although numerous suggestions from this statement were taken into account in the final passing of the Act, several objections were disregarded. Consequently, increased difficulties and legal uncertainties can currently be observed in the day-to-day implementation of the approval procedures, which often result in delays to research projects. The Senate Commission is committed to providing researchers with comprehensive information about the changes, and to collecting and articulating their problems.
What is more, the Senate Commission is involved in political opinion-forming regarding the question of the introduction of a right to class action at national and state level, representing the viewpoint of the research community.
Advice and Support for Researchers
The Senate Commission advises researchers and their universities and research institutions on the implementation of the Directive for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes. It provides recommendations for the implementation of the 3Rs principle in research involving animal experimentation and for future development models for animal welfare in research. The Senate Commission continues to advise and support researchers in legal matters and in individual cases related to animal experimentation. It focuses on the approval process for animal experimentation applications in primate research.
Animal protection in research involving animal experimentation
To ensure the highest degree of animal protection in research involving animal experimentation, the Senate Commission focusses its work on the conditions in which laboratory animals are kept and the standards of the 3R principle (Replace, Reduce, Refine). This principle requires researchers to commit to replacing animal experiments with other methods where possible, to limiting the number of laboratory animals to what is necessary, and to reducing the suffering of laboratory animals. The Commission advises the statutory bodies and the Head Office of the DFG as well as researchers, universities and research institutions on these matters.
Every two years, the DFG awards the Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize, which recognises researchers who work in an exemplary and sustained manner to improve the welfare of animals in research. In particular, this includes the development of procedures in accordance with the 3R principle. The Senate Commission supervises and supports the selection process and the content of the programme for the award ceremony.
The use and legitimation of animal experiments in research is, and will remain, an ongoing issue in political and social debate. The Senate Commission invites dialogue with the public and aims to contribute to making the controversial and often emotional debate on the topic of animal experimentation more objective by providing soundly researched information materials and by participating in expert meetings and discussion groups. As a Committee of Experts, the Commission is available to help with any inquiries from the interested public and government. The brochure entitled “Animal experimentation in research” compiled by the Senate Commission provides comprehensive information on the subject in a form accessible to the general public. The brochure provides information about research areas where animal experimentation is used, and scientific breakthroughs that have been achieved by means of studies involving animal experimentation. It provides current data and facts and explains the statutory framework for the conduct of animal experiments. In addition, the brochure contains a detailed examination of the ethical foundations of research involving animal experimentation as well as the possibilities and limitations of alternative methods. The brochure was republished in 2016 and is also available in an English-language version.
The Senate Commission supports the joint information initiative by the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany entitled “Tierversuche verstehen (Understanding animal experimentation)”. This initiative offers a wide range of information materials on an online platform and via social media, makes experts available and provides opportunities for interactive discussion. The initiative, the product of close collaboration between research and communications experts, is targeted at the public and the media, and is conceived as a further contribution by the scientific community to making the debate about the necessities for, uses of and alternatives to research involving animal experimentation more objective.
The high-quality training and supervision of early career researchers in animal experimentation work is a particular concern of the Senate Commission, because it is an indispensable precondition not only for guaranteeing the highest standards in terms of animal welfare, but also for the quality and replicability of research findings. New teaching media can make a valuable contribution in this area. The Senate Commission maintains the e-learning platform “vtk online” as part of the “LAS interactive” portal in order to create a scientifically current information base for methods of animal experimentation research and for training in this area.