Last month, nearly 600 scientists and members of the animal research community signed an open letter, published in USA Today, which called for more transparency in animal research.
“We call upon our country’s research institutions—large and small—to embrace openness,” they said. “We should proudly explain how animals are used for the advancement of science and medicine, in the interest of the well-being of humans and animals.”
Some researchers signed on to this letter because they feel that the scientific community has failed at talking about their animal work to the general public. This, they believe, may be contributing to a decrease in support for animal use in medical testing by Americans, a trend that Gallup polls have been reporting for many years.
But are these researchers being truthful about their desire for transparency? We ask this because a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report to Congressional Requesters on Animal Use in Federal Research shows a different side of the story.
Stakeholders, both animal welfare activists and members of the research community, were asked whether federal agencies that may have additional information about their animal use programs should share more animal use data with the public.
Interestingly, the report stated that “Stakeholders, other than animal advocacy organizations—including federal agencies, research organizations, academia, and others—generally expressed the view that federal agencies should not routinely make additional [animal use] information available to the public, citing reasons including the existence of other methods to obtain this information and administrative burden.”
These “other methods” include filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, something that private institutions do not have to respond to and for which public institutions can charge an exorbitant fee. Also, responses to FOIA requests often take months to obtain and can be heavily redacted of any valuable information.
On the other hand, the report indicated that stakeholders from animal advocacy organizations “cite the need for more transparency and oversight as reason that federal agencies should make additional information routinely available to the public.”
In our view, the GAO report makes it clear who is fighting for transparency in animal experimentation, and who is fighting against it.
If, as the open letter in USA Today states, animal researchers are sincere in their call for increased transparency—then we are in agreement, and we welcome all efforts to move in that direction.
Because we feel quite strongly that the more information the general public has about the ways in which animals are harmed and killed in scientific research, the more the Gallup polls will continue trending in our favor, and the more support we will see for the development of humane, human-relevant alternatives.
Help NAVS continue to fight for transparency in animal research and to fund the development of animal-free alternatives by making a donation today.