Inspiring animal free researchers through learning more about the values, motivations, and ambitions of Animal Free Research UK’s scientists
Professor Kay Peggs
Animals to be replaced: all
Each year over 110 million animals are used in research worldwide, with over three million in the UK alone. The true number is much higher, as many countries don’t publish statistics, and those that do, exclude particular animals (for example invertebrates in the UK). Also excluded from the statistics, are animals who are used for breeding genetically modified animals, animals who are killed solely to provide tissue, and animals who are considered to be surplus to the requirements of a procedure.
Using animals for research has historically been the accepted way of carrying out research and viewed as the gold standard in terms of safety. There’s now an increasing shift away from animal research, towards more human relevant research. This is because research has shown that humans react and respond to drugs and diseases differently from animals, with over 92 percent of new drugs tested on animals, failing to benefit human health. This renders much of animal research as not only unethical but costly and ineffective for human benefit.
Some of the challenges facing animal free researchers include, securing funding (when most of the money that is available is awarded to animal research) as well as proving the reliability of their work against the perceived gold standard of animal research. This means that those scientists pursuing careers in animal research have a greater chance to secure funding, more job security, and an edge in terms of building their academic reputations. There have been a number of studies looking at the views of researchers who use animals in experiments but few on the views of those who conduct animal free research. Given that these researchers are at a financial and professional disadvantage, it’s important to understand and learn from their motivations.
Professor Kay Peggs at Kingston University is interviewing 13 of Animal Free Research UK’s funded scientists to understand their motivations and experiences in animal free research. She’ll include their views on animal based and animal free research and will try to ascertain what the rewards and practical challenges are. To gain an in-depth and broad pool of information, additional interviews will follow on as new topics emerge from the initial conversations. Researchers will also feedback on the questions, topics, and the interview process, improving it as it progresses. Professor Peggs will then use a computer program to help her analyse this wealth of information.
This study will lay the foundation for how best to conduct a larger scale similar study to compare the views of scientists who undertake animal free research. Professor Peggs hopes to gain a deeper insight into the values motivations, experiences, and ambitions of pioneering animal free researchers. This could help inform and inspire current and future scientists, accelerating progress towards a world where human diseases are cured faster without animal suffering.