November 20, 2018
Happy Thanksgiving from Matt, Rocco, Alissa, Barbara, Taylor, and Nahla. We hope you relish your time with family and friends as we express our gratitude for you and for your support!
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie Speaks out in Support of Canine Research
At the National Press Club’s Headliners Luncheon on Nov. 9, Robert Wilkie, the new Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took a moment to voice his intentions to reauthorize the VA’s canine research programs. The former VA Secretary, David Shulkin, ordered a full review of the VA canine research programs with the intent of phasing them out shortly before being removed by President Trump. Secretary Wilkie has made it clear that he is rejecting calls to halt canine research, citing the research is necessary and is part of his obligation to support veterans. The White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) has called for a stop to the research pending the release of a study evaluating the need for canines in research by the National Academies of Science. You can view the Secretary’s vigorous and inspiring defense of canine research here.
VA-Funded ILAR Committee Appears to Lack Appropriate Expertise
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has contracted a study by the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) entitled, “Assessment of the Care and Use of Dogs in Research Funded by or Conducted at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.” According to the mission statement, this study will, “review the care and use of dogs in research funded by or conducted at the VA. The study will evaluate whether dogs are, or will continue to be, necessary for any type of research directly related to the mission of the VA.”
Concerns have been brought to NABR by many about the current make-up of the committee for this study. However, this committee is provisional and the biomedical research community is asked to provide feedback on the current selections. NABR urges researchers and animal care professionals, particularly those with canine model experience, to provide their feedback to ILAR no later than December 6.
FDA White Paper Proposes Reduced Canine Use for Animal Health Drugs
The FDA has published a White Paper that proposes a study to determine the elimination of dogs in specific research protocols. The study is exploring an alternative to terminal clinical endpoint bioequivalence trials when evaluating bioequivalence of a narrow spectrum of anti-parasitic canine drugs. This type of study is used when determining bio-equivalency of generic or novel formulations of a drug that is currently available.
The canines used in the proposed study would be subject to minimally invasive blood sample collection and would be retired for adoption at the end of the study. The goal would be to validate an in vitro alternative to the studies currently used. In a statement on the proposed study, the FDA emphasizes their dedication to caring for their research animals and noted their newly established Animal Welfare Council which provides central oversite for FDA research.
The FDA is accepting public comments on the protocol. Comments may be submitted to https://www.regulations.gov/ docket FDA-2018-N-3345. Comments are due by January 15, 2019.
Bipartisan Letter to FDA Demands End to Primate Testing
A letter signed by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was sent to Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The letter called for a review of all primate research in federal laboratories as well as further oversight of primate research. This letter is in response to the White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) campaign urging Congress to defund all primate research. Rep. Boyle told VegNews ”Painful primate testing is shameful, and it has no place in the 21st century. It’s no wonder most Americans oppose it.” The letter refers to Commissioner Gottlieb’s earlier decision to terminate a nicotine addiction study using primates earlier this year. Rep. Boyle and Rep. Gaetz believe that the policy to suspend primate research and retire the animals should be expanded within the FDA. It should be noted that many WCWP supporters in Congress lost their re-election bids and this two-person letter has significantly less co-signers than previous congressional letters.
Understanding the APHIS Annual Report
On November 2, Science magazine posted an article in response to the increased number of primates used in research in 2017 compared to those used in 2016, as reported by the US Drug Administration (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). In the article, Thomas Hartung, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, stated that the numbers reflect that “people are just blindly running toward the monkey model without critically evaluating how valuable it really is.”
However, many have correctly pointed out that the article is misleading, as nonhuman primates are used in lower numbers than other research animals and the general downward trend has been fairly consistent over time.
With assistance from NABR’s Senior Scientific Advisor, Dr. Taylor Bennett, DVM, Speaking of Research published an article aimed at better understanding the APHIS report. The article emphasizes scientists should take the Sciencearticle, and those similar to it, seriously because they play a significant role in public perception of animal use in research. Speaking of Research also voices concerns about Science giving legitimacy to anti-research groups and individuals.
In sum, research scientists are likely to dismiss the Science article about “record number of monkeys being used in U.S. research.” However, the biomedical research community should consider how these articles, however misleading, influence the public perception of research. In turn, such perceptions have the potential to influence public policy and funding of scientific research.
Habeas Corpus Issued on Behalf of Elephant
As you may recall, the Non-human Rights Project (NhRP) filed for a writ of Habeas Corpus for unlawful imprisonment of “Happy,” an elephant at the Bronx Zoo. This is part of an ongoing effort by NhRP to have non-human animals recognized as lawful citizens.
For only the second time in United States legal history, a judge has issued the Habeas Corpus order. A hearing has been scheduled for December 14th to determine whether the elephant should be released from her “imprisonment” at the zoo. NhRP President, Steven Wise, says that they “are thrilled Happy’s case is moving forward.” This is the most success a NhRP lawsuit has seen recently, as their previous filings on behalf of chimpanzees were not granted Habeas Corpus.
This order simply means that the Bronx Zoo must come before the court to show why the release of the elephant should not be ordered. However, the outcome of this case could have implications far beyond “Happy” the elephant.
White Coat Waste Receives Monetary Award from LUSH Cosmetics
The White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) recently won the LUSH Prize and the accompanying £50,000 (approximately $64,000) award. Lush, headquartered in the UK, is a handmade cosmetics company that provides this cash award to organizations that fight animal testing and research. The goal of this prize is to make animal research irrelevant. WCWP founder and president, Anthony Belloti, made a trip to Berlin, Germany to accept the prize on behalf of WCWP. LUSH praised WCWP, stating that they “believe in supporting projects that aim to tackle the root cause of the problem rather than treating the symptom.” The problem they are trying to tackle here is animal research. This financial prize will contribute to WCWP efforts and is being used to attract further contributions from individuals.
This is not the first time that LUSH has partnered with opponents of animal research. They have also highlighted their Charity Pot Partner, Beagle Freedom Project (now Rescue + Freedom Project) to expose “slow and painful deaths” of research animals. In fact, the company’s UK website has an entire pagefeaturing various articles that aim to fight animal testing and research. In fact, the company’s policy on animals seems to go far beyond that of animal research. They have posted stories on everything from animal research to the fur trade to Florida’s Amendment 13 against dog racing.
Last year’s winners of the LUSH Prize include The Humane Society Legislative Fund, Humane Society of the United States, and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, all of which have lobbied against biomedical research.
GLAS Submissions Open December 1
The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) has announced deadlines for their Grant for Laboratory Animal Science (GLAS). Since 2006, 62 research grants have been awarded to projects that will promote the enhancement of scientific knowledge in laboratory animal health and welfare. The principal investigator of the project must be an AALAS member. However, co-investigators do not need to be members. All projects should adhere to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) principles and guidelines.
There are two grant categories: Standard Grants (up to $50,000) and Small Grants (up to $7,500). Applications will open on December 1. All program information, application forms, and an application tutorial will be available on the AALAS website. All applications must be submitted by February 1, 2019.