Belgian researchers commit to more transparency about animal testing

3 December 2019
About 20 Belgian research centers and companies have signed a transparency agreement on animal research. Together they commit to communicating in a more open way about animal research.

Belgium is internationally renowned for pioneering biological and biomedical research. Basic research remains enormously important to fathom biological processes and disease mechanisms. Unfortunately, animals are still needed today for certain parts of this research. New medicines are also tested on animals before they go to the clinic.

The regulations for the use of laboratory animals are strict. Animal experiments can only happen if there is no alternative available, and in some cases, they are required by law. However, every animal experiment requires a careful ethical consideration: what can science teach us and does this specific research need to use animals?

Four commitments to the general public
Under the leadership of the Belgian Council for Animal Research (BCLAS), and in collaboration with the European Animal Research Association (EARA) which supports the biomedical sector in Europe, 19 Belgian universities and private companies have now drawn up a transparency agreement outlining their engagement towards open communication on animal testing. The agreement contains four main commitments:
  1. create more clarity about how, when and why animals are used in research
  2. better communication with the media and the public; ao about implementing the alternatives and reducing or refining animal testing
  3. offer the general public the opportunity to become acquainted with laboratory animal research and the regulations that apply to it, for example via open lab days
  4. report the impact of our communication and share experiences annually
Focus on animal welfare and communication
"For the time being we cannot do without animal testing," explains Liesbeth Aerts of Infopoint Animal Testing. “Because animal welfare is important to all of us, researchers continue to focus on reducing and refining animal research, in addition to applying and developing alternatives (replace, reduce, refine): the 3Rs.
“This transparency agreement underlines the importance that researchers in Belgium attach to animal welfare. By communicating openly, we want to create more clarity about when, how and why animal experiments are currently necessary. ”

"EARA fully supports this important initiative of the Belgian biomedical sector,” adds EARA director Kirk Leech. “Thanks to this agreement, the general public in Belgium will be better informed about animal research and the role it plays within scientific study. More openness will also clearly show what efforts that the public and private sectors are making to minimise animal use and to develop better alternatives." Similar initiatives have already been rolled out in the UK, Spain and Portugal.

"We are pleased that a large number of companies and institutes in Belgium that work with
animals or fund research with animals, joined the agreement," concludes Aerts, "Our hope is
to raise the bar for the entire sector, not only in relation to the 3Rs, but also when it comes to
communication."

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Belgian Council for Laboratory Animal Science, BCLAS
BCLAS is a professional and scientific association that aims to promote the replacement, reduction and
refinement of laboratory animal use by driving reflection, sharing information, providing education and support to the scientific community, authorities and public, in order to lead to an ethical, responsible and qualitative research enabling further improvement in human & animal health.

Signatories
Ablynx, GSK, ILVO, Janssen, KU Leuven, Orsi Academy, Remynd, UA, UCB, UCLouvain, UGent, UHasselt, UMONS, UNamur, ULB, ULiege, VIB, VUB