Dr. Richard Fosse

The unseen compassion of animal scientists

Richard Fosse June 7th, 2012 2 Comments

Richard FosseThe people who work with laboratory animals are a compassionate bunch who would gladly use alternative methods if they could deliver the same results.

Like many people who do what I do, I’d quite like to become redundant. That is, I’d be content if my current job were made obsolete by advances in science.

As a vet in charge of laboratory animal science at a large research-based pharmaceutical company, I would be delighted if other mechanisms were available that could answer the questions we need to answer.

Nobody becomes a vet without first having a love for animals. For those of us who work with laboratories, we are the ones who guarantee round-the-clock care for the animals and safeguard their welfare.

Some people wonder how one can describe themselves as an animal lover yet do this kind of work. I give the example of my own wife who is a heart fibrillation survivor. Thankfully she leads a normal life, having taken a drug for 20 years now, and she is in great shape.

However, the reality is that the drug that has helped her stay healthy was developed through research on animals. We love cats in our house and I have to explain to my kids that a lot of the basic research that led to better treatments for their mother’s disease was actually done on cats and dogs.


The promise of unimaginable

As things stand today, it’s hard to imagine a world where animal research has been replaced with alternative methods. To be frank, I don’t foresee this happening any time soon, but such is the beauty of science that it tends to throw up all manner of unforeseen – even unforeseeable – advances.

Using animals is complicated but for much of our research, they are the best we have.

Advances in cell culture have taken us a long way but there are times when we need to see how a potential therapy responds to hormones and biochemicals from several organs of the body. The only option is to test the drug in a whole animal.

Of course, the research methods of the past are not as good as those available today. Perhaps in the future we’ll look back and think today’s methods to be primitive.

As I said in my last post, the beauty of science is its uncertainty.

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  1. Sonya Armenia says:

    I find this very hard to believe. I’ve seen too many undercover investigations to conclude that scientists are mostly heartless sorts who care nothing for the pain and suffering these poor creatures are subjected to. To them animals are nothing but tools to further their scientific goals and further more, profit!

    • edteam says:

      Hi Sonya, thank you for you comment. However from what I know the European law requires that any pain or discomfort likely to be experienced by the animal is prevented or at least reduced to the minimum possible. I have learnt that all labs must have a vet on site and trained animal welfare specialists who monitor the health and well being of the lab animals to spot animals suffering from stress and pain. They also improve comfort of animals through “environmental enrichment” (which is part of international guidelines and is a mandatory part of the new EU legislation). For example the use of better equipped cages and group housing whenever possible.
      In this perspective last year, after a conversation with a vet, I wrote a post that might be of interest for you []

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