In animal research, public interest is secondary -

In animal research, public interest is secondary

When you’re competing nationally and internationally for prestige and donors, who has time to disclose pesky statistics?


Yesterday, I talked (slash-blogged) about UBC’s openness in choosing a new Dean of Education, calling it a model of transparency. Of course, in any large institution transparency only goes so far. If there’s a net loss in disclosing information, chances are it’s not going to happen.

For example, look at UBC’s action (or lack thereof) in releasing information about animal testing done on campus. Thus far, the university has stalled in responding to Freedom of Information requests filed by Stop UBC Animal Research (STOP). Why?

“Under our regulatory system, we would need the permission of the researchers to reveal the information,” said VP Research John Hepburn to The Ubyssey (disclosure: it’s the paper I’m editor of). “We’re never going to get that permission.”

UBC argues that because the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), the regulatory body that oversees animal testing, doesn’t require individual universities to disclose specific information, they’re not obligated to. Furthermore, they would require the researchers themselves to sign off on disclosing what they do.

This is a bit of a dodge though. If they really wanted to, UBC could release general numbers regarding research activity, as is required in the United States under the Animal Welfare Act. But what would be the point? There is no evidence the university is doing more or less research on animals than other research-intensive institutions in Canada. Yet having the information out there, while other Canadian universities stay silent, would simply put UBC at a competitive disadvantage—for researchers and for reputation.

It’s something Hepburn himself hints at. “[If you] release information without the medical context—in other words, if you ask a member of the public, ‘If I am going to do the following thing to a monkey, or to a cat or to a mouse, what do you think?’—the natural response would be that sounds like something that’s not very nice to do to that animal,” he said. Which is true. People don’t like hearing about what happens to animals, regardless of the possible long-term benefits, and regardless of the regulations in place. There’s a reason it’s kept private.

But hang on. Shouldn’t public universities act in the best interest of, well, the public? Large Canadian universities may be provincially funded and operated, but they compete nationally (and sometimes, internationally) for students, prestige, and donors. The incentive system is skewed towards acting like a private corporation would.

So while the debate in Vancouver on animal testing will go on, this isn’t a UBC issue—it’s a federal regulation one.


In animal research, public interest is secondary

  1. Today’s society has evolved to a point in which a corporate conscious and a high level of transparency are almost mandatory. The public demands it

    We are now in a new society where we are talking about issues such as Nathon Winograd’s No Kill Nation , speciesism ,pet owner being guardians not owners and companion animals not being property.

    Comments have come to our attention that the Animal welfare movement is the fasted growing social justice movement in this millennium! Note this?

    The issue of animals as sentient goes back to the 1600’s (see our CFAWR site) and yet Canada refuses to recognize this as evident in our appalling Criminal code regarding animal cruelty protection

    What is different now is the public demand to make informed choices about drugs they are given, buy over the counter, the purchase of ethically made household cleaners, cosmetics etc. The list goes on.

    At some point ethics must come into this argument regardless of wherever benefits UBC states are the benefits of using the animals are. If I was given a drug by my MD, researched and found that animals were used test it, I would not take it. I would find an alternative. I want this choice and I demand it!

    The University of Quelph used to hold a candle light vigil once year for all the cats, mice, rabbits, who gave their lives to science. But there’s the point. They did not give their lives! They were taken!

    Now the University of Guelph has just announced it is no longer be using animals in research at all. Accolades to Quelph

    You could follow suite UBC?

    I think this is all really about UBC’ long standing tradition of what goes on behind closed doors is no one’s business. Well I am afraid UBC your days are numbered regarding this. Wake up times have changed and this will NOT GO AWAY .Sooner or later you will have to deal with this.

    The regulation and disclosure arguments only hold up for so long .This is not a black and white issue. It is several shades of grey!

    Some groups may get together and take you to court .This would be very bad for your education business!! Disclose what you need to disclose so we can all know the facts and numbers and grieve for the lives you have taken. Let us make the decision that inserting rods in a cat’s back is really going to help someone walk

    Personally I am disgusted!

    To modify a quote from Paul McCartney If UBC research lab had glass walls no one would give you money and attend UBC classes again

    Transparency and pro -active positive damage control is what you need to be engaged in now! Get going?

    Sarah West Founder/President CFAWR Canadians For Animal welfare Reform

  2. Why does Hepburn insinuate that Canadian citizens don’t have the intelligence to understand medical terminology and weigh possible benefits? He seems to place himself above members of the Canadian public in a “you wouldn’t get it” stance.

    Well Canadians want to get it, we want to be part of this conversation, but first we need UBC to disclose what is actually going on to make informed decisions about our taxpayer dollars.

  3. Bravo Sarah West! Beautifully said.

    It’s time that Universities and governments understood that the Canadian electorate are GROWN UPS!
    We don’t need Them to decide what we should know ,”for our own good” or what they think we are capable of understanding. They are ACCOUNTABLE to us!

    To ask us to simply believe what they are doing is for our own good verges on insanity.
    If they think that Canadians, on seeing what thy are doing in their labs to innocent animals, might make Canadians shout STOP! Then maybe they shouldn’t be doing it.

    We are spending millions and millions of taxpayers money on their little secrets . It’s time they showed us , yes I mean videos and photographs, what they are doing and why.

    Let us decide what kind of Nation we want to be.
    I’m hoping for Ghandi’s kind of Nation. I paraphrase, ‘A nation should be judged by how it treats it’s animals’

  4. Is that true that the University of Guelph is no longer using any animals for research??? That’s amazing! But is there a link to a story or something about that, because I can’t find one and would really like to learn more.

  5. May I throw into the consideration as to whether animal research needs to continue:

    “I abhor vivisection (animal experimentation). It should be abolished. I know of no breakthrough, no scientific achievement, that could not have been accomplished without such barbarism and cruelty.”
    Dr. Charles May,
    co-founder of the Mayo Clinic

    Not an animal rights extremist, but a medical expert. And there are many 1000’s of enlightened scientists throughout the world who concur.

  6. University of Guelph (Ontario) has committed to no longer using pound animals in research – meaning that between 700 and 800 pound dogs will no longer be sent for use.

    September 15 at 3:17pm ·

    Stop Vivisection Canada! The following was posted on the Ontario Veterinarian College website, Sept. 10th:

    Curriculum ChangesStarting this semester, OVC is changing the way student veterinarians are taught basic anesthesia and surgical skills. Instead of performing procedures on anesthetize…d animals, which are then euthanized while they are still anesthetized, more surgical skills models and cadavers will be used.Additional experience will be gained with anesthetic recoveries and with ovariohysterectomies (spays) and castrations (neuters) for shelter animals that are then returned to shelters for adoption. Students will also participate in supervised anesthetic and surgical procedures in the new Primary Healthcare Centre, as well as in their surgery, anesthesia and other rotations during their 4th year of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program as they have in the past.This curricular change will not affect our American Veterinary Medical Association/Canadian Veterinary Medical Association accreditation status, which is based on outcome assessment not on specific teaching methodologies.The curriculum at OVC is always evolving – what is constant is our focus on providing effective learning experiences to meet clear learning objectives for our student veterinarians.See More
    September 15 at 3:18pm · ·