Select Committee on Animals In Scientific Procedures Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Professor Goldberg, Director, Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing

  My name is Alan M Goldberg. I obtained my Doctor of Philosophy degree in pharmacology from the University of Minnesota and have been a toxicologist for the last 33 years. Currently I am Professor of Toxicology and Director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

  My position on the use of animals in research is as follows:

  There is still a necessity—an unfortunate necessity—for laboratory animals to be used in biomedical sciences if we are to achieve progress in medicine, protect the environment, and promote public health. We have an obligation, however, to do everything we can to minimise the number of animals used and to eliminate or at least minimise any pain and stress involved in animal research protocols by refining our methods.

  We also should not be content with saying that because there are few replacements to the use of animals today, we must always use animals. Instead, we need to put into place the scientific initiatives that will allow replacement to occur.

  I have devoted my career to furthering these goals of reduction, refinement, and replacement. This approach—known as the 3Rs of alternatives—began right here in the UK, as the work of two British scientists, Rex Burch and William Russell.


  The Johns Hopkins Center was founded in September 1981; I am the founding director. Our vision statement calls on CAAT "to be a leading force in the development and use of reduction, refinement and replacement alternatives in research, testing and education to protect and to enhance the health of the public".

  It is our mission to:

    —  Promote and support research in the development of in vitro and other alternative techniques;

    —  Serve as a forum to foster discussion among diverse groups leading to creative approaches to facilitate acceptance and implementation of alternatives;

    —  Provide reliable information on the science, philosophy and public policy of alternatives to academia, government, industry and the general public;

    —  Educate and train in the application of alternatives.

  We define alternatives "as new methods that refine existing tests by minimising animal distress, reduce animal usage, or replace whole animal tests".

  The Center has three major programs:

  Grants: This is our oldest program, established shortly after the creation of the center in 1981. We provide research funding to academic institutions worldwide. Our funds support the development of in vitro methods by focusing on a mechanistic understanding of biologic processes. We also have targeted grants, known as program projects. Currently, we have program projects focused on two areas: corneal wound healing and refinement.

  Information: The Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing communicates with the public and the scientific community through a variety of printed publications and three major websites, including Altweb, a clearinghouse for resources, information, and news of the 3Rs. Altweb is managed by CAAT and directed by an international Project Team, which includes such centres as FRAME in the UK, ZEBET in Germany, and the Netherlands Centre for Alternatives, as well as organisations representing the regulatory and animal protection communities.

  Outreach: We promote the development, validation, and use of alternatives through regular workshops, consortia, and conferences—typically, between two and three meetings a year. Recently, we have focused on regulatory safety testing in a program known as TestSmart. TestSmart is intended to provide a humane and efficient approach to gathering regulatory toxicological data. TestSmart workshops are meant to examine, in depth, approaches to regulatory toxicology that incorporate the 3Rs.

  Associated with the Center and involved in these programs are faculty whose full-time appointments are at the Johns Hopkins University (or in the case of one individual, Howard University). Their areas of expertise include laboratory animal sciences (comparative medicine), law, policy, toxicology, and risk assessment.

  A list of CAAT faculty and their vitae, as well as other information about the staff and structure of the Center may be found on the CAAT website (

  Since our founding, we have tried to establish common ground between the various constituencies and stakeholders interested in the issue of animal testing, and at all of our meetings we invite academic, government and industrial scientists, animal protectionists, environmentalists, and others as appropriate for the topic of discussion.

  Why is this outreach so important? What difference can an alternatives center make? To understand the answer to these questions, one has to understand the issues of primary concern to both the public and the scientific community. For the scientific community, the issue is this: How can scientists achieve their goals, using the most humane methods possible, but with a minimum of governmental burden? For the public, and for much of the animal protection community, the issue is pain and distress.

  In survey after survey, on both sides of the Atlantic, if the public is asked the question, Do you support animal research for biomedical purposes? Somewhere between 75-80 per cent of the public answers in the affirmative. However, if the question becomes, Do you support the use of animals in biomedical research, even if the animals experience pain and/or distress? Fewer than 50 per cent of respondents say yes. The public cares about pain and distress.

  For many years scientists debated whether animals experienced pain or distress. Now, however, in both the United States and Europe, it is generally accepted that, in the absence of other data, one must assume that procedures or activities that cause pain or distress in humans will do the same in animals. In the US as well as in Europe, scientists are expected to document painful procedures and to search for alternatives to them.

  Furthermore, it is generally accepted by the scientific community that animals in pain or distress do not represent normal conditions but rather a modified state, which may alter or skew experimental results. Thus, researchers have a scientific rationale, as well as an ethical one, for eliminating pain and distress whenever possible.

  Most of the public understands that laboratory animals have a critical role to play in research. What we need to communicate better is how we use animals, how we protect them through our animal welfare laws, and how we are working to minimise both their numbers and the pain or distress they experience by developing alternative methods. We also need to devote more effort, and more funding, to the development of these methods.

  Yet much of the scientific community is completely silent on the subject of pain. Many are hesitant to embrace the concept of the 3Rs, out of a misplaced fear that an open discussion of these topics will lead them to be targeted by animal rights' groups. Instead, it is precisely this type of open dialogue that can lead us beyond rhetoric to collaborations and progress.

  An alternatives center can play an important role in serving as a forum for public discussion and as a catalyst for scientific discovery. When you have the right platform for this process, real progress can occur. An alternatives center can be that platform.

  Thomas Kuhn, in his now classic book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," stated that every major scientific revolution has "necessitated the community's rejection of one time-honoured scientific theory in favour of another incompatible with it. Each produced a consequent shift in the problems available for scientific scrutiny and in the standards by which the profession determined what should count as an admissible problem or as a legitimate problem-solution. And each transformed the scientific imagination in ways that we shall ultimately need to describe as a transformation of the world within which scientific work was done. Such changes, together with the controversies that almost always accompany them, are the defining characteristics of scientific revolutions".

  More than 40 years ago, Russell and Burch launched a scientific revolution by insisting that scientific excellence and human science are linked, that the 3Rs approach of replacement, reduction and refinement would lead not only to better animal welfare but to better science. Today, groups all along the animal use/animal protection spectrum have begun to use the language of the 3Rs, and to look beyond the language to action. I believe it is essential to bring together biomedical scientists, representatives of industry and government, experts from the field of animal welfare and laboratory animal sciences, members of the animal protection community, and experts in bioinformatics, biostatistics, ethics and new technologies (in vitro as well as non-invasive approaches)—in short, everyone who holds information or expertise that will help us incorporate all 3Rs.

  This effort requires a forum, a platform such as the one you are considering today. I applaud you for your vision and your concern for both research and laboratory animals.

  In conclusion, I want to thank you for the opportunity to address you today. I am honoured to be in the UK, where so many talented scientists and dedicated people in the alternatives field are working for progress. One has only to look to university scientists such as Drs Morton, Festing or Flecknell—or to the educational activities of Dr Dewhurst—to see that exciting work is happening here in the field of the 3Rs. FRAME, other animal welfare organisations, and the Research Defense Society play an important role in educating the public about the issues I have presented today. So it is truly my pleasure to be here.

Alan M Goldberg, PhD

Professor of Toxicology

Director, Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing

Johns Hopkins University,


April 2002


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