Physicians Committee Conference Pushes Animal Research Dialogue Forward
More than 200 scientists, medical professionals, and policymakers came together in Washington, D.C., in late August for the Physicians Committee's inaugural conference on animal experiments and alternatives.
Despite well over a century of debate, the ethical and scientific issues surrounding animal research have rarely been studied together in a balanced, organized forum. But at the Physicians Committee's Animals, Research, and Alternatives conference, more than 20 speakers from around the world shared their expertise on the scientific, legal, and political opportunities and challenges to implementing alternatives to animal experiments.
During this two-day event, attendees learned how expanding knowledge of animals’ psychological and social attributes reinforces the urgency of reevaluating their use in research.
The first presenter, John Gluck, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico and the Kennedy Institute for Ethics at Georgetown University, conducted primate research for years before turning his attention to the ethics of animal research. Dr. Gluck and other speakers explained that animals have their own set of needs—and that these needs are compromised when animals are forced to live in laboratory settings.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., of Washington State University, explained that overwhelming evidence supports that animals experience various emotions. Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado, pointed out why the emotional and moral lives of animals matter.
Speakers addressed the physical pain animals suffer from in laboratories and also discussed the severe psychological suffering caused by using animals in experiments.
The Physicians Committee's research policy director Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., discussed her observational study of chimpanzees, which found that many chimpanzees used in laboratory research continue to exhibit symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder years after being released to sanctuaries.
Conference attendees also learned about exciting advances in medical research, including a surrogate human immune system for predicting vaccine safety, a computer simulation environment that designs new insulin treatments for diabetes, human tissue assays for drug development, and a revolutionary approach to breast cancer research.
The conference was co-sponsored by the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, The George Washington University Medical Center, and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University.
Funding for this conference was received from the Arcus Foundation and the National Science Foundation.