The topic of "animal experimentation" is an emotional issue that makes it difficult to have an open and rational discussion about the reasons for using test animals. The discussion project "Animal Experiments in Research" is sponsored by the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and designed to objectively provide comprehensive information about this subject to reach a balanced and unbiased judgment of the reasons for animal testing and how these tests are conducted in practice. At the same time, new aspects and methods of communicating are being developed to reflect both the scientific and emotional sides of the issue. Only when both sides of the debate are considered can an open and objective discourse on the pros and cons take place.
Currently, animal experimentation is indispensable. The tests are necessary to develop new methods of diagnosis and therapies to combat infections. Despite all the medical progress of recent years, infections are still responsible for a third of all illness-related fatalities worldwide. Scientists use mice as model organisms because at the moment it is not possible to replicate with alternative methods the tremendously broad spectrum of actions and reactions involved when a complex living organisms is confronted with an infectious disease. With the help of mice, we can better recognize the manifold principles behind infections and the immune responses, and these, in turn, can be transferred to the human organism. This knowledge opens up new possibilities for researching diseases and developing measures to counter them.
This is reflected in the number of animal experiments conducted in recent years: From 1991 to 1997, these have dropped continuously. Since 1998, however, the number has been on the rise because of the increased use of genetically altered mice.
The discussion project on animal experimentation is divided into three programs:
A documentary film illustrates how a modern animal house functions.
For large school groups new forms of communication are being developed and tested – with the film as the starting point.
A "Best-Practice Forum", consisting of scientists, ethicists, and representatives of socially relevant groups, is working out the prerequisites, methods and support instruments for a long-term communications strategy on this complex issue.
Participating in the implementation of the discussion project, in addition to the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, are
the Society for the Study of Research Animals (GV-SOLAS),
Members of the school laboratory project, BioS, are responsible for contacts with regional schools.
Here you can download a manual for the discussion project (in German only).