With the rapid spread of Coronavirus around the world, many of our supporters are wondering what this means for animals used in science.
Understandably, countless researchers are now trying to find a vaccine as quickly as possible, and we agree wholeheartedly that this is a top priority. Humans receiving proper healthcare and treatment is something we are and have always been in full support of!
Typically, possible human vaccines would undergo animal testing before moving on to human trials due to outdated laws and regulations, old fashioned mindsets, vested interests and other factors. With the use of animals to try and model the human response to drugs and disease failing 95% of the time we can't ignore the elephant in the room: Animal testing isn't reliable, and this isn't the time to lean on a broken model.
Instead, it's a crucial time for scientists to utilise human-relevant research and testing methods to ensure that we find a vaccine as quickly as possible!
Animals being used in cruel and ineffective tests
The COVID-19 outbreak has triggered the start of cruel and outdated experiments on animals around the world including on primates, ferrets, pigs, hamsters and mice.
We are yet to hear of any confirmed cases of animal experiments for COVID-19 in NZ. However, researchers at the University of Otago and the Malaghan Institute have publicly announced their plans to use mice in COVID-19 related research even though mice are naturally resistant to coronavirus. There has sadly been an increase in demand for mice who have been genetically modified in an attempt to try and better model COVID-19 in humans.
Rather than continuing down this unreliable and misleading path, sophisticated 21st-century technologies should be utilised instead!
The superior and ethical research methods being utilised
The good news is that not all researchers are using outdated and unreliable animal tests! One study being conducted in the US has skipped some animal trials entirely as a way of fast-tracking the discovery of a vaccine. The animal model would just slow vaccine development down without producing useful data.
The innovative research being conducted by some scientists is truly inspirational and includes three-dimensional human respiratory tissue models and human liver models, which provide real hope of combatting COVID-19 and inspires better preparation to address future pandemics.
There are plenty of ethical and effective methods of research that do not require animals such as epidemiology studies, computer-based techniques, human cell and tissue cultures, tissue engineering, organ-on-a-chip microfluidics, and many more.
A recent study examined non-animal models for developing vaccines for certain viruses and determined human-mimetic tools (such as the examples previously listed) are more likely to result in a successful vaccine than experiments on mice and monkeys.
What we are doing
- Encouraging the scientists getting it right: We joined a global coalition to thank the scientists who are fighting against COVID-19 without the use of animals! Over 15,000 people from 40 different countries signed our thank you letter.
- Encouraging a global shift away from the use of animal experiments: We signed an open letter spearheaded by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and signed by nearly 100 experts, academics, and other concerned parties, calling for advanced non-animal research methods to be prioritised to accelerate the discovery and use of effective vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.
- Encouraging the NZ Government to priorities funding of human-relevant research into COVID-19: We have reached out to key decision-makers in NZ, provided them with important information and invited them to discuss this issue with us in person.
- Exposing the institutes planning animal experiments for COVID-19 created research in NZ: We share this news publicly to hold these institutes and researchers accountable.