Many Brock students may not realize that thousands of small animals are used as subjects for animal research every year as part of different studies conducted at Brock.
For example, the 2015 statistics for animal-based science at Brock shows that animal research was conducted using over 1500 rodents, including rats and mice, 402 amphibians, 337 fish, 62 reptiles and 12 birds for six teaching protocols and 25 research projects.
Despite these statistics, Dayle Carlson, Brock’s Animal Care Coordinator, stated that “on the ACC (Animal Care Committee) there are two veterinarians, two members of the general public community and a faculty member from a department where no animal use takes place, in addition to representatives from all faculties who may perform animal-based science. All of these people are dedicated to animal welfare.”
The 2015 statistics summary also states some of the research advances that have resulted from animal testing. A few of these include: increased lifespan due to reduced growth of cancerous tumours using specific pharmaceuticals, a better understanding of brain mechanisms involved in learning and memory and improved grape harvests in vineyards.
“One measure of success is to count the number of publications that have been produced from data collected in animal-based studies,” said Carlson. “Animal research studies performed at Brock University generate approximately fifty scholarly publications annually.”
Despite numerous inspections and policies in place regarding animal testing at Brock, some students aren’t pleased.
Stephanie Piovesan, a fourth year student and an active member of BSAL (Brock Students for Animal Liberation) believes that there should be more awareness about animal testing conducted at Brock as well as more open communication between the researchers and the community.
“We’ve been left in the dark about specific experiments,” said Piovesan. “I understand that is because of research confidentiality but I believe that the procedures are unethical and that there are many more cons than pros regarding animal testing as a whole.”
This isn’t the first time that BSAL has spoken out against animal testing at Brock. Back in 2013, the group held a protest in front of the Cairns building. The protests’ aim was mainly to promote awareness about the implications of animal research conducted at Brock.
“The fact is that a lot of students simply don’t know that animal testing is conducted at Brock,” said Piovesan. “But regardless of where they stand on the issue, it’s important to know about.”
Although the 2015 statistics show the types of animals that were used for research, the document doesn’t state how many of those animals died during the procedures, as a result of the procedures how many had to be euthanized afterwards, what types of experiments were actually conducted or whether or not the animal had been alive during the entire procedure.
“The sad thing is that most of these animals are killed as part of the research,” said Piovesan. “I believe that animals are beings who deserve to be given the respect that anyone who experiences pleasure and pain should be given.”
“Animals do not die a provoked death as part of any research here,” said Carlson. “Euthanasia, or humane death, such as by an overdose of an anesthetic, is performed before animal suffering takes place.”
Piovesan explained that earlier last year there was an agreement between BSAL and ACC that rodents part of animal research were going to go up for donation afterwards because rats and mice are often sold as pets.
“Unfortunately the donation idea didn’t go through because we were told that from thousands of rats, there would be maybe only three that would live beyond the research procedures,” said Piovesan.
“One of the arguments [for animal research] is that advancements in medicine, but I’ve read that some of these advancements can be harmful to humans,” said Piovesan.
According to Piovesan, there are organizations with doctors that are fighting to find alternatives to animal testing, the most common one being The PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine).
“Seeking out alternatives is a Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) requirement for every researcher or teacher who wishes to use animals in a program,” explained Carlson. “Applicants wishing to use animals must demonstrate that they have investigated alternatives when they complete a comprehensive application that is reviewed by the ACC.”
From 2008 to 2013, animal research at Brock was supported by approximately $6.2 million in research funding.
“People in our society are conditioned to think that animal testing is a necessary thing,” said Piovesan. “But that’s simply not true. Sometimes it’s just an economic thing because there is so much capital to be gained from animal research.”
Piovesan stated that BSAL’s ultimate goal is not to attack individuals, but to educate the Brock community about the practices surrounding animal research.
“Ultimately our end goal is for Brock to discontinue animal testing,” said Piovesan, “but really we simply want the statistics to keep getting posted.”
The 2016 statistics for animal research conducted at Brock will be posted December of 2017.
For more information about BSAL, check out their facebook.com/BrockAnimalLiberation or email them at BrockAnimalLiberation@gmail.com