of the suffering during killing, and create a wish to
reduce the number bred but not used.
• Cap the number of surplus animals. Identifying a
cap on the number of experiments or the number
of surplus animals bred but not used would be a
complex undertaking given the number of experiments and the growing size of the surplus. However, both, we believe, would be a worthwhile goal.
As a start it would be useful to develop reliable
tools for accurately predicting the number of animals required for a study. National Research Council (US) Committee on Guidelines for the Use of
Animals in Neuroscience and Behavioral Research
offers a number of formulas for consideration2.
While investigators enjoy the convenience of in-house
breeding, and the advantages are considerable, we
advise that you reflect on the greater benefit of using a centralised breeding facility, at least per institute
where breeding is done in different units spread over
a campus or among institutes in close proximity. This
improves the chances of having suitable lines available
at shorter notice.
When you take a vacation, breeders keep breeding.
Communicate with breeders about your holiday period
and of the reduced need for animals.Adjust these requirements well in advance. Make communication with
breeders, and specifically the advance notice of upcoming holidays, part of the animal staff’s responsibility.
The two-way communication between technicians
and breeders, along with advance planning, will help
breeders match production with demand and move
toward a just-in-time breeding capability.
There is pressing need for a Code of Practice within a
strong Culture of Care. This Code could specify at least
1. Reporting of all animals bred for research, whether
used or killed
2. A requirement to justify, at the approval level, the
reason for planning an oversupply / for planning
to kill the animals rather than allocate them to
other scientific use
3. Criteria for judging requests for oversupply and for
plans to kill animals that are surplus to requirements
Requirements for a use of animals of a certain
sex, age or weight should be justified on scientific
grounds—and again, decision criteria should be delib-
erated and agreed upon by a body of concerned indi-
viduals on all sides of the animal research debate. This
Code should include the technologies used to breed
new lines and also to kill the surplus animals.
There is a pressing need for a rich database which
investigators, funders, approval boards, ethics committees and regulators can mine for purposes of avoiding
duplication, finding breeders, identifying number and
species of animals bred, acquired, supplied, used, set
free or re-homed and locating lines preserved cryogenically.
Dr Hawkins reminds us that we should record the
origin of each animal used in research and include
whether they were purpose bred and importantly, the
number and species of animals that died or were killed,
with cause of death noted.
Other suggestions include expanding the archiving
and dissemination of genetically-altered strains by cryo-preservation and reproductive technologies—and, from
the UK Medical Research Council—to share models
and resources as a way to eliminate duplication, coordinate harvesting of tissues and organs, and centralise
MAKE THE EXPERIMENTS MATTER
While science knows a lot about the behaviour of
genetic material, investigators are starting to acknowledge that studying DNA or genes—or even the epig-enome or pathways—is not the complete picture. The
role of the microbiome has of late taken centre stage in
the health press and it may be that the proteome and
the microbiome become central factors in research.
The argument for stepping back to review the number of studies may not be welcomed by grant holders
or even by grant making organisations, yet there is a
case to be made for assessing the results to date and
making a strong commitment to reducing the number
of animals bred but not used and then killed. Such an
examination may improve the return on investment in
both funding and animal lives. It would be interesting
to consider development of an algorithm to determine
predictive value of experimental design, and use the
calculations to decide on funding.
To view the references and additional reading for this article,
go to www.alnmag.com/articles/2014/12/make-every-life-
Vera Baumans, DVM, PhD, Dip ECLAM is a Laboratory Animal Science Specialist in the Department of
Animals, Science and Society, Division of Laboratory
Animal Science, at Utrecht University, Utrecht, the
Helen Kelly is an ALN World Contributing Editor. She
covers issues in biomedical research internationally.
She is always happy to hear from readers.