The afternoon of the workshop’s second day featured several perspectives on transporting laboratory animals, including those of an educator, a representative of a European communications and advocacy organization, an academic shipper, and a carrier.
Retired science teacher C. Ford Morishita focused on the challenge of organizing an overwhelming amount of information about the use of animals in research and making it conveniently accessible to an audience that includes students, teachers, and the lay public. While websites of research institutions provide this information, tremendous patience is needed to wade through everything, he said. A better resource for the lay public might be websites of other organizations, such as ILAR, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International, and USDA.
Morishita made the argument that the ultimate key to creating an informed public is through improving K–12 education. “How are we going to prepare those students by the time they leave high school?” he asked. Use of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is a particularly promising approach, he said, in that the standards promote a format of learning based on active demonstration of knowledge instead of memorization and regurgitation of content. NGSS builds a bridge among high school classrooms, higher education, and a research setting.
Morishita directed workshop attendees to the National Research Council’s Science, Medicine, and Animals1 and its accompanying teachers’ guide. In particular, he provided an example from the teachers’ guide that had been specifically crafted to discuss the Three Rs—the concepts of replacement, reduction, and refinement in the use of laboratory animals. During the lesson, students were given a scenario about the use of rats for testing in a pharmaceutical company. Students were asked to talk about the Three Rs and choose the most appropriate one for this case. They were asked to describe their answer, their reasoning, and why they would make a particular decision if they were the researcher, a member of the company advisory board, or someone in another role.
Kirk Leech, executive director of the European Animal Research Association (EARA), provided attendees with a portrait of activities in which animal rights groups are engaged to disrupt animal research throughout Europe. EARA is a communications and advocacy organization launched in February 2014 that seeks to uphold the interests of biomedical research across Europe.
While there has been a dramatic decline in criminal methods used to stop animal research, activists have effectively turned their energies to lobbying and social media to persuade companies not to transport research animals. It is often the threat of a Facebook or email campaign to a company’s reputation and market share that will allow activists to achieve their goals.
Air France has become a major target for the anti-animal research groups, said Leech. The scientific community’s support of Air France is important, as the actions of animal activists have affected transport providers and led many other companies, not only airlines, to stop transporting laboratory animals. “There are no longer any commercial maritime means available to transport animals in and out of the UK,” Leech said.
Representatives of EARA recently met with representatives of the transportation sector who believe that this crisis results from a breakdown in trust between the public and the research community. Until that trust is
won back, said Leech, the transportation of animals for research will not be resumed. “Because researchers are often very reluctant to talk about their research in public, the vacuum is filled by the opposition giving them the moral authority on this issue,” he said. The public hears continually about the alleged misuse of NHPs, he said, but hears very few positive accounts to counterbalance these arguments. Researchers should be describing how the animals are cared for, said Leech, and why the research is important to find cures for diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s.
Leech informed workshop attendees about an ongoing activist petition urging the European Parliament to reopen the debate about ending animal research. This petition, called the Citizens Initiative, has gained 1 million signatures thus far.2 Leech described several initiatives that EARA has undertaken to counter these negative messages, responding in part to the requests of the transportation sector to speak publicly about the benefits of research. “The impact of all this on the European life sciences is quite dire,” Leech said. “We need to find more imaginative answers to our problem.”
Steven Leary, assistant vice chancellor for veterinary affairs at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, has had the luxury of working with a full-time shipping coordinator for imports and exports of research animals. As part of an academic perspective on laboratory animal transportation, Leary emphasized the value of having such an expert within one’s organization.
The shipping coordinator at Washington University provided animal resource services for between 400 and 450 principal investigators in the past 12 months alone. He processed 325 exports and 225 imports, with shipments going to about 160 locations around the United States and to about 20 other countries. Other large academic institutions in the United States, despite having comparably heavy traffic, have not centralized this process, leaving the tasks to various laboratory managers spread through-
2 The European Commission’s response to the Initiative can be found at: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/commission-replies-to-european-citizens-initiative-against-animal-testing and at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/lab_animals/pdf/vivisection/en.pdf (sites accessed on September 14, 2017).
out the institution. “One couldn’t expect these folks to have the necessary tools or understanding of the process,” which compromises quality, compounds problems, and adds to the paperwork, Leary pointed out. Yet, researchers already are spending large amounts of time on administrative tasks—an estimated 42 percent, according to one recent study.3
Leary provided attendees with a quick overview of the many steps required to move animals. As described by earlier presenters, many people have to sign off on required forms. Problems with timing can be compounded by unrealistic expectations. Poor planning can cause delays and many other types of problems.
Labeling can also cause problems, as can weather and unanticipated accidents. Washington University once lost a box of mice when workers in an airport hangar literally ran over it. Another time, 6 out of 12 mice were lost because a driver took a circuitous route in Florida and the truck was not held at the proper temperature. “Some of these things are out of our control,” Leary said. “With a coordinator and proper attention, however, these things can be minimized.”
Carl Kole, former chair of the IATA LAPB, addressed the group again from the perspective of a consultant in the aviation industry. He talked briefly about some of the responsibilities of a carrier:
- Ensure that containers are species specific and compliant. Some kennels have “USDA-approved” or “airline-approved” tags. But airlines do not approve anything, said Kole, and neither does USDA.
- Provide space in the cargo hold that will support life—for example, by ensuring adequate ventilation.
- Provide storage facilities at both the origin and the destination.
- Separate laboratory animals from other animal shipments.
- Protect animals from the elements.
3 National Science Board. 2014. Reducing investigators’administrative workload for federally funded research. Available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2014/nsb1418/nsb1418.pdf (accessed on September 14, 2017).
According to Kole, and via the IATA Shipper’s Certification for Live Animals, “carriers will not be liable for any loss, damage, or expense arising from death due to natural causes, or death or injury of any animal caused by the conduct or acts of the live animal itself or of other animals.”4 Nor are carriers liable for death or injury to an animal caused by defective packaging, or “by the inability of the animal to withstand unavoidable changes in its physical environment inherent to air transport.”5 Carriers do run into a problem with animals turning on each other, he said, mostly with dogs. “I often say to use a broker. They are experts. You are going to have a much, much better opportunity to get your animals where they need to go.”
One of the greatest problems the industry encounters is that all the paperwork and all the security checks, while important, slow down the process. In fact, they slow things down so much, said Kole, that if the airline employees cannot get the animals from the warehouse into the airplane with the proper temperatures, the airline will simply refuse the shipment. Kole reminded attendees that airlines no longer operate for the public’s convenience and necessity. While once a public utility, deregulations in 1982 changed the nature of the industry.
“You heard me talk yesterday about the economics of transporting animals,” said Kole. “I don’t think we are ever going to get over that hurdle. It costs a lot. That is not going to change. I truly hope we can come together collaboratively somehow, even if it is getting a group of diverse people to sit down and talk about what we can do to make your job easier—especially for the researchers.”
4 IATA Shipper’s Certification for Live Animals. Available at https://www.aacargo.com/downloads/IATA_Shippers_Certification.pdf (accessed on September 14, 2017).
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