One of the Editorials in last week’s issue of Nature (457, 636; 2009, free to access online) calls for vigorous pursuit and prosecution of “activists” who break the law, often violently, in their personal stances against the use of animals in experimental research. According to the Editorial, “US federal, state and university authorities need to go beyond enforcement and take an unequivocal, public stand that emphasizes the importance of animal research for drug testing and basic science — as did former UK prime minister Tony Blair. It would be especially helpful if President Barack Obama were to make such a statement.”
Scientists should ensure that they are complying with the appropriate regulations, “and run their labs as if members of the public could walk in at any time to take a look. If they are seen to be committed to high-quality animal care, it can only improve their credibility among the public.”
The Editorial also calls for a streamlining of the US regulatory network, calling on the US federal government to “conduct a thorough review of the regulations concerning animal research to eliminate gaps, ensure compliance and strengthen penalties. Ideally, the oversight powers would be consolidated within a single organization. But, in any case, such measures might boost public confidence in animal research.
Over the long term, this multipronged approach should not only protect the safety of researchers, but should open up space for a constructive dialogue about issues in animal research — especially the pursuit of reduction, replacement and refinement of such experiments — that concern both public and researchers alike.”
See also a recent Nature Correspondence exchange between Roberto Caminiti (Nature 457, 147; 2009) and Bill Crum (Nature 457, 657; 2009). This exchange of views arose from a previous Nature Editorial (Nature 456, 281-282; 2008) about neuroscience research on non-human primates, calling scientists who work in this field to action over a proposed EU directive.