Sociology announces a moratorium on animal testing
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
Recently, the department of sociology at Brock University, along with the masters program in Social Justice and Equity studies, declared a moratorium on all research involving animals within the department, until the issue of vivisection at Brock can be investigated further.
This cessation of animal research within the department was spawned partially because of a recent incident involving pictures featuring animal testing at Brock that were posted on the Brock University Web site. Photos of mice involved in research at Brock were posted on the psychology department's Web site. The photos featured rats being housed in very small Tupperware-like containers.
"I became aware of the photographs when they were brought to my attention by a student that was very distressed about the treatment of animals used in research at Brock," said John Sorenson, a professor in the department of sociology.
"I have heard similar concerns from students every year. In this situation a student showed me photographs of students in the psychology lab holding rats in small Tupperware-like containers. A number of other students also saw these photographs and expressed their concern and I understand that as soon as the news got out the photos disappeared from the psychology Web site, once people started to talk about them."
It was after this that a moratorium was proposed with the department voting unanimously to end all animal research until the issue could be looked at more closely. Following their lead, the masters program for Social Justice and Equity Studies also declared an end to their animal research.
The objectives stated within the moratorium include that "all information involving research on animals be made open to public scrutiny, including the names of researchers, numbers of animals used, procedures, conditions of animals, objectives and rationales of the use of the animals and results" and "that any future research be undertaken with the same level of ethical standards that are applied to research with human subjects and that a principle of 'no harm' to all research subjects, regardless of species, be adopted".
Grant Klacko, a member of the Brock Animal Rights Club, said that part of the reason the photos were of such concern is because animal testing is fairly unnecessary.
"Is animal testing at Brock necessary? No, of course not. Animal testing isn't necessary anywhere as more humane methods have been in practise for years," said Klacko.
"I am well aware that the psychology department is the largest at Brock and that their research programs bring in a large portion of money for Brock. However, I do not believe that this research has to or should involve cruelty towards animals. I ask only that the researchers and administration try thinking with their hearts rather than through their wallets. The university has a duty to its student population and I whole-heartedly believe that the majority of Brock students would be strongly against unnecessary cruelty towards animals."
Sorenson said that he believed that this issue stretches far beyond the confines of Brock's campus.
"I think these concerns are part of a broader debate about the use of animals in research in general," he said. "Many animals are used in research that is not only painful for those animals, but also which is redundant and trivial."
"A typical defence of this type of research is that it is necessary for curing human diseases like cancer or AIDS. The fact is, we're all concerned about those. But it seems that medical research is often dwarfed by testing for other things like cosmetics and household products."
Sorenson also said that even in the cases where testing is done for medical research there is a question that exists about the validity of that research. Part of the argument is that the effects will not be consistent between animal species and humans.
Currently, any research at Brock that involves the use of animals must be reviewed and approved by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), through the Office of Research Services.
According to their Web site, the university currently holds a Certificate of Good Animal Practice from the CCAC. This certifies that Brock is an institution which "practises the guidelines of the programs of the CCAC, has been assessed by expert panels composed of scientists, veterinarians and community representatives and has been found by the panel and by the CCAC Assessment Committee to have standards of experimental animal care and use which satisfy the CCAC's guidelines and policies, and have therefore been assigned a CCAC status of Compliance or Conditional Compliance".
Sorenson said that at present it is difficult to find out anything about animal testing at Brock because those in charge of it are keeping details under wraps.
"This sort of work is totally controlled by people who have a vested interest in continuing it," said Sorenson. "For years I have been trying to get on the committee that oversees the use of animals at Brock, but I've never been allowed to join it."
Sorenson also talked about one individual who was on the committee that expressed concern with some of the things being practised, and was not allowed to be on the committee the following year. Similarly, despite multiple requests, Sorenson said he had repeatedly been denied access to information about the number of animals being used in testing at Brock and what the nature of the research for which animals are used.
"If this was such wonderful work that people were doing," he said, "you would think that they would be proud of it, not trying to hide it."
Klacko said that while the moratorium is a step in the right direction, ideally he would like to see it affect larger changes at Brock.
"I would love to see all animal testing stopped at Brock. However, this is unlikely given the investments in the department's research," said Klacko. "Therefore, I would be happy with a strict policy on the use of animals for research; a policy that allows public access to all research and to the names of those conducting it. As well as an outlet for those concerned with research and ethical issues to publicly ask their questions and voice their opinions."
For more information about animal testing guidelines practised at Brock, or potential alternatives visit www.ccac.ca or www.neavs.org/betterscience/index.html.