Last fall, science advisors from NAVS’ International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) were contacted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to collect data for a report they were tasked by Congress with writing, regarding alternatives to the use of animals in research.
For their report, the GAO focused on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), three agencies that conduct and fund animal research. The GAO was interested in learning more about the efforts that these agencies have made to develop, validate, and promote alternatives, as well as the challenges that agencies face in this regard.
In addition to IFER’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), the GAO sought expert opinions from agency officials, representatives from federal and nonfederal research facilities, and groups that advocate for animal welfare. The GAO’s report was published last month.
The report recommended that government agencies develop metrics to better track—and report to the public—progress being made in the area of alternatives, something that NAVS and IFER strongly support.
However, we have some concerns about other findings.
In particular, the report seemed to suggest that government agencies sufficiently consider the use of alternatives to animals in their experiments, as researchers provide a written description of their consideration of alternatives in their research protocols, which are then reviewed by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs).
Unfortunately, there is some evidence to suggest that the IACUCs—whose composition tends to be skewed in favor of animal researchers—simply “rubber stamp” the proposed research protocols without properly addressing whether a search for alternatives was thorough. We have shared this concern with the GAO and will keep you posted on further developments in this area.
We were honored to have IFER’s science advisors be part of this important discussion, and we welcome continued efforts on the part of government-funded researchers to reduce—and eventually replace—animal use.
Help NAVS and IFER continue supporting smarter science that advances discovery, innovation and human-relevant solutions without the use of harmful, flawed and costly animal experiments.
United States Government Accountability Office, “Animal Use in Research: Federal Agencies Should Assess and Report on Their Efforts to Develop and Promote Alternatives,” September 2019.