On the 14th of November 2021 at 3pm, I attended a service held on behalf of the animals who have died in human conflicts and suffered at the hands of humankind. The service was organized by the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA), and I was there representing the Animal Interfaith Alliance. The Reverend Dr Helen Hall led the service. After the Introduction and welcome, the audience and participants sang the hymn ‘O God, our help in ages past’.
I then gave the Old Testament Reading from Isaiah 2:3-4 (NRSVA): 3 Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
This was followed by a reflective reading from the Reverend Samantha Chandler:
‘JUST A DOG’
From time to time, people tell me “lighten up, it’s just a dog” or “that’s a lot of money for “just a dog”. They don’t understand the distance travelled, the time spent, or the cost involved for “just a dog”. Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog”. Many hours have passed, and my only company was “just a dog” but I did not once feel slighted. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog”, and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day. If you too, think it’s “just a dog”, then you probably understand phrases like “just a friend”, “just a sunrise”, or “just a promise”. “Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. “Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person. Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So, for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. “Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day. I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog” but the creature that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a man” or “just a woman”. So, the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog”, just smile, because they “just don’t understand”. (Unknown Author)
The service continued with Intercessions by the Reverend Professor Martin Henig, who spoke on behalf of the animals who had died in human conflicts but also those who had suffered and died at the hands of cruel people or practices. He also gave thanks for the safety of the animals and people who were brought out safely from Afghanistan by Pen Farthing, and thanks too, for the people and animals in our armed and civil forces, and many others who keep us safe.
This was followed by ‘A Time to Reflect’ by Revered Dr Helen Hall, which led to the ‘Introduction to the Act of Remembrance’ and a ‘Two Minute Silence’, followed by the quote:
‘They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.’
To which the congregation responded:
‘We will remember them.’
The Laying of the Wreaths on the Memorial was followed by a blessing of the audience and the Hymn ‘Just As I Am’ and the ‘Dismissal’.
Finally, the people gathered to look at the many wreaths placed against the Animals At War Memorial, whereupon we all departed. It was a very moving and beautiful service, and I was honoured to represent the Animal Interfaith Alliance on this occasion.
We are delighted to announce that Lisa Levinson and Judy Carman of AIA’s US partner organisation, the Interfaith Vegan Coalition (IVC) will be giving an online presentation on Sunday 21st November 2021 at 17.45 GMT, following AIA’s online AGM.
Lisa and Judy will be talking about ‘Vegan Spirituality: the Climate Solution’ and IVC’s inspirational work to promote vegan spirituality. Solving the environmental crisis that we now face requires internal spiritual change, where we learn to live in harmony with creation and to respect it, rather than seeing it as a resource to be exploited. Technological solutions alone are not enough.
Lisa Levinson manages In Defense of Animals’ campaigns and directs the Sustainable Activism Campaign, offering emotional and spiritual resources for animal activists. Lisa founded Vegan Spirituality to explore veganism as a spiritual practice and co-founded the Interfaith Vegan Coalition, which provides resources for faith-based vegan advocacy. She started the National Goose Protection Coalition to prevent goose roundups and the Toad Detour to help toads migrate safely. She also co-founded Public Eye: Artists for Animals to teach compassion for animals through the arts.
We are delighted to announce that Lisa Levinson and Judy Carman of AIA’s partner organisation in the US, the Interfaith Vegan Coalition (IVC) will be giving an online presentation on Sunday 21st November 2021, following AIA’s online AGM.
Lisa and Judy will be talking about ‘Vegan Spirituality: the Climate Solution’ and IVC’s inspirational work to promote vegan spirituality.
The AGM will be held online at 16.00 GMT and will include an address by AIA’s president, Dr Richard Ryder. The AGM will be for AIA members only and we’d be delighted if all members can attend.
The Presentation by Lisa and Judy will be open to all and will commence at 17.45 GMT. Please join us. Everyone is welcome!
To register and receive the Zoom link to the presentation and/or the AGM, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Animal Interfaith Alliance (AIA) has written an open letter to 24 overseas embassies in the UK on behalf of its Director, Dr Andre Menache, calling on a global ban on biohazard research. The open letter is below.
Open Letter Calling for a Global Ban on Biohazard Research
We, the Animal Interfaith Alliance, a group of 17 faith-based animal advocacy organisations (listed below), write to you in your capacity as Ambassador to the UK, to request your help in calling for a global ban on biohazard research.
We refer here specifically to the genetic manipulation of animal viruses and other biological agents. Of particular concern are the three thousand biosafety level 3 and 59 biosafety level 4 facilities, worldwide.1
As far as we are aware, no laboratory has yet signed up to the voluntary biorisk management system (ISO 35001), introduced in 2019 to establish management processes to reduce biosafety and biosecurity risks.2
In addition, no facility, not even the highest biosafety level 4, is immune to accidents, as illustrated by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at the Pirbright Institute in the UK in 2007.3
Currently, we are faced with the COVID pandemic, which could be the result of so-called ‘gain of function’ research, which has generated much controversy and even a moratorium from 2014 to 2017 in the U.S. This high-risk research aims to create mutations in pathogens (especially animal viruses) to make them more contagious or lethal to the human population. This ‘gain of function’ endows them with abilities they do not have in nature.4
In view of the above, we wish to invoke the precautionary principle by calling for a global ban on biohazard research. The health and wellbeing of future generations depend on your determination to act decisively to achieve this ban. Please will you confirm to us your commitment to a ban. We thank you for your consideration.
Dr Andre Menache BSc(Hons) BVSc Dip ECAWBM (AWSEL) MRCVS
The Animal Interfaith Allianceand all of its faith-based members join and support our member organisation, Catholic Concern for Animals (CCA) in paying tribute to their Patron, Sir David Amess, who was murdered on Friday 15th October.
Sir David was a devout Catholic and an active advocate for animal rights in Parliament. In 2015 he met with Pope Francis. He was a great supporter of CCA and regularly contributed to their magazine The Ark.
Most of all, he was a wonderful human being.
The trustees of CCA said: “Trustees, officers, and members of Catholic Concern for Animals are saddened and shocked at the news of the death of CCA Patron Sir David Amess. Sir David was a forthright advocate of animal rights in Parliament, and a faithful and devoted supporter of Catholic Concern for Animals.
“The tragedy of his untimely and violent death, whilst seeking to assist members of his constituency, will leave an enormous void in support for animal rights in Parliament, and a hole in the heart of our Charity.
“His service as a Patron of the Charity since 2014 has been invaluable and his presence will be irreplaceable.”
AIA Board member and Founder and Chair of Panorthodox Concern for Animals, Dr Christina Nellist, has just launched her two new books, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
The books are Climate Crisis and Sustainable Creaturely Care: Integrated Theology, Governance and Justice and Climate Crisis and Creation Care: Historical Perspectives, Ecological Integrity and Justice.
Both books are being added to the BA (Hons) course ‘Animals and Society’ at Winchester University, UK.
The books consist of many scholarly contributions which Christina has edited and complied. Chapter 1 of Climate Crisis and Sustainable Creaturely Care, was written by members of AIA, and is titled “The Animal Interfaith Alliance’s Vision for the Place of Animals in a Sustainable World”. It is introduced by AIA’s President, Dr Richard Ryder and the conclusion has been drawn up by AIA CE, Barbara Gardner. There is a contribution from each of the main faiths, including the Jain and Hindu perspectives by Nitin Mehta MBE, the Buddhist perspective by Dr Will Tuttle, the Jewish perspective by Prof. Dan Cohn-Sherbok, the Eastern Orthodox perspective by Dr Christina Nellist, the Catholic perspective by Dr Deborah Jones, the Anglican perspective by Rev. Prof. Fr Martin Henig, the Unitarian Universalist perspective by Rev. Feargus O’Connor, the Islamic perspective by Faizan Jalil, and the Sikh perspective by Charanjit AjitSingh.
This volume encapsulates the thoughts and research of academics across the globe in regards to the biggest crisis of our generation: climate change. Considering the global crisis though the lens of creation care, this volume reviews the damage we have done to our environment and how our misuse of resources threatens all forms of life on earth via food insecurity, rising sea levels, mass migration and social unrest. This book presents a global voice on our historical impact on the world, the governance that allowed it and how creation care can present a way out of this crisis.
The book, Climate Crisis and Sustainable Creaturely Care, can be purchased here.
The other book, Climate Crisis and Creation Care, can be purchased here.
This, coupled with a 90-97% failure rate for drugs and topical medicines is why we support the ban of the animal-testing mode.
Please help them by writing to your MPs, asking them to support the EDM 175 in Parliament which is calling for a public scientific hearing on animal experiments – for independent scrutiny from independent scientists – on the animal-testing model.
Please share – for this will only change if Parliament stops repeating the outdated responses of the past and starts looking at the new science and the new evidence.
AIA Director Dr Andre Menache has responded to the Government’s comments. (These are shown below in red).
The Government believes animal use for research remains important and The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) provides specific protection for these animals..
There is an explicit exclusion under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA), to provide for the legitimate conduct of procedures on ‘protected animals’ for scientific or educational purposes that may cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. The use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work both in health and disease. Such use is crucial for the development of new medicines and cutting-edge medical technologies for both humans and animals, and for the protection of our environment.
The 1986 Act effectively enshrines animal suffering by means of legal definitions, whereby an animal experiment becomes a ‘regulated procedure’ licensed to potentially cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to a ‘protected animal’, which encompasses all living vertebrates other than humans, under the responsibility of humans.
Thus, identical acts of deliberate animal cruelty potentially punishable by custodial sentencing under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 are essentially immune from prosecution under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
No animals may be used under ASPA if there is a validated non-animal alternative that would achieve the scientific outcomes sought. The protections for animals under ASPA include the need for three levels of licence for such procedures to occur, welfare standards which need to be met, and activities including inspection which assure compliance with ASPA. The Home Office is the department responsible for regulating the use of animals under ASPA. If any activity is found to be in breach of what is permitted under ASPA, then the AWA will apply.
The above statement represents a catch-22 situation : “No animals may be used under ASPA if there is a validated non-animal alternative that would achieve the scientific outcomes sought.”
If the scientific outcome sought is to study the effect of a chemical on a rat, then it is difficult to envisage how a non-animal “alternative” could replace the rat experiment. However, the use of rats is justified on the unscientific premise that animal models somehow are able to predict human outcome.
Validated non-animal “alternatives” do exist but are ignored by industry with impunity. Take the example of the human cell based method to replace the rabbit pyrogen test, developed by NIBSC researchers in 1988 (1). This non animal method (the Monocyte Activation Test) was validated in 2006 and yet is still ignored by certain sectors of industry (2). Please could you indicate the legal mechanism within the context of the ASPA that would oblige industry to use an existing validated non-animal method, including the imposition of fines and penalties. If you cannot find this information, it is probably due to the fact that it does not exist.
Details of the code of practice for housing and accommodation of animals regulated under ASPA approved by Parliament which form a core pillar of compliance assurance activities under ASPA are available at: Code of practice for the housing and care of animals bred, supplied or used for scientific purposes – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Animal testing is required by all global medicines regulators, including the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to protect human health and safety.
The regulatory requirement that all medicines be tested on animals to protect human health and safety is based on outdated laws, dating back to 1946 at the time of the Doctors’ Trial at Nuremberg. Science has moved forward since then by 75 years but the laws have not yet caught up with the science (3). To continue to ignore current science is tantamount to medical negligence (4).
Without the testing of potential medicines on animals the development, registration and marketing of new, safe, and effective medicines would not be possible. The animal species for animal testing of potential medicines are specifically chosen to give as much human relevant information as possible and to avoid species specific reactions which would not predict human effects. Many products which would not be safe or effective in humans are detected through animal testing thus avoiding harm to humans. Potential medicines fail in development for many reasons but the fact that medicines are stopped in development for reasons other than unsatisfactory animal testing does not mean that the testing is not essential.
Extraordinary claims (those above) require extraordinary evidence. Yet you have not provided a single peer reviewed scientific reference to support your claims. In contrast, there is a vast body of evidence-based science to demonstrate that no animal species can predict human response with respect to drug development or human diseases (5, 6, 7, 8).
The Government has a policy to limit the number of animals used in science through replacement, reduction, and refinement of research design – the ‘3Rs’. Applicants for licences must demonstrate that they have considered using non-animal alternatives as far as possible. Meanwhile the Government actively supports and funds the development and dissemination of techniques that replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs). This is achieved primarily through funding for the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs), which works nationally and internationally to drive the uptake of 3Rs technologies and ensure that advances in the 3Rs are reflected in animal research policy, practice and regulations. NC3Rs has committed £100 million. This includes almost £27 million in contracts through its CRACK IT Challenges scheme to UK and EU-based institutions, mainly focusing on new approaches for the safety assessment of pharmaceuticals and chemicals that reduce the use of animals.
From the 22 completed CRACK IT Challenges, 12 new products and services have been delivered for industrial and academic end-users. These include miniature wireless devices for recording neural activity in mice; novel human-relevant microphysiological systems and organ on-a-chip platforms for kidney, cardiac and neuronal toxicity assessment; and AI/ in silico modelling platforms for infection, welfare monitoring and toxicology studies. The MHRA work closely with the NC3Rs, bringing together stakeholders in academia, industry, government and animal welfare organisations to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas, and the translation of research findings into practice that benefits animals and science.
The 3Rs concept was indeed innovative when it was proposed in 1959. Today, the 3Rs concept is out of step with current science and technology.
The NC3Rs was launched in 2004 with an annual budget of £696k from the Department of Trade and Industry, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)) and the Home Office (hence taxpayer money). Since then the budget has grown considerably, totalling five million pounds in research grants in 2017.
The stated mission of the NC3Rs is to “drive scientific and technological developments that replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs); ensure animal experiments are as robust and reproducible as possible; and provide the best welfare for laboratory animals”.
According to official Home Office statistics, a total of 2,778,692 animals were used in scientific procedures in 2004 (the year the NC3Rs was launched). This figure has risen by almost one million animals to reach 3,721,744 in 2017. Clearly, the NC3Rs mission to “replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research” has been a huge disappointment.
Equally alarming is the fact that in 2017, the annual report of the NC3Rs acknowledged the “ongoing reproducibility crisis and concerns about the reliability of animal research”.
The fact that 85% of animal study results cannot be reproduced by other research teams (and sometimes even by the same research team) is a huge embarrassment to the animal research community (9). Could it get any worse ? Yes, because even if the methodology used to conduct the animal experiments was carried out to the letter, the results obtained would still not be predictive of human outcome, due to species differences between animals and humans (10).
Fortunately for the researchers, the public is unaware of this state of affairs, otherwise taxpayer funding and support for animal experiments would dry up very quickly.
It should be noted that the emphasis at the NC3Rs is not the replacement of animals as can be seen in their 2012 report, in which grants for replacement accounted for 33% of total funding.
In other words, two-thirds of their budget is allocated to reduction and refinement of animal experiments, rather than actual replacement. Following are some examples of the research projects funded by the NC3Rs in the fields of reduction and refinement:
Researchers at Newcastle University were awarded £247,800 to study the assessment of pain using facial expressions in laboratory mice, rats, rabbits and macaques. The same University received £484,656 to assess pain in macaque monkeys used in neuroscience experiments and again (£380,748) to study the welfare of mice used in cancer research.
Researchers at Imperial College, London, received £270,784 to study bacterial infections in mice.
A researcher at Aston University received £152,048 to develop a less painful model of epilepsy in rats.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was awarded £317,995 to study malaria in mice. Researchers at the University of Sheffield received £353,324 to study the relationship between nerve activity and blood flow in the brain of zebra fish.
We do not need three Rs, the only R required for human medical advancement is that of full replacement of a broken system by one that is relevant and predictive for human medicine. The sooner this message is understood and acted upon by society and government, the better for all concerned – human and animal.
To conclude the Government has no plans to amend the Animal Welfare Act (2006). We consider enabling the properly regulated use of animals in science is essential to improving the health and lives of humans and animals and to the safety and sustainability of our environment. Underpinning this is a strong commitment to a rigorous regulatory framework that fully implements the 3Rs and the continued development of non-animal alternatives.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The debate surrounding animal experiments will not go away until it is dealt with in a responsible and transparent manner. The main reason that animal researchers have managed to pursue their careers for so long is because of a lack of any scientific audit of their work. The general public and most members of parliament do not have the science background necessary to challenge the validity of the claims made by animal researchers. When faced with the mantra that animal research is a “necessary evil” the public has no choice but to accept the promises of future cures for human diseases.
One way forward is EDM 175, which calls on the UK Government to mandate a rigorous public scientific hearing, judged by independent experts from the relevant science fields, to stop the funding of the now proven failed practice of animal experimentation and increase funding for state-of-the-art human-based research, such as human-on-a-chip and gene-based medicine, to prioritise treatments and cures for human patients and stop the suffering of laboratory dogs and other animals (11).
The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.