Monday, October 20, 2014
Last updated: 8 hours ago

UBC releases independent report about its animal research practices

Photo Geoff Lister/The Ubyssey

UBC released a 21-month-old report on their animal research program Friday, which was generally positive but offered some criticism.

The independent report, produced in 2010 by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), praised improvements UBC made to its facilities for housing research animals. The report also advised that UBC should centralize facilities and increase supervision of animals used in research.

According to the 50-page report, the university “made excellent progress in its animal care and use program.” It mentioned UBC’s updated animal care facilities and the centralized services available to faculty working on animal-based research.

The report also urged UBC to get more veterinarians involved in the process and to make sure all students who handle animals are trained in animal health.

Helen Burt, UBC’s associate vice-president research and international, said that UBC has followed the CCAC’s recommendations. The university is in the process of moving most of its animal research activities into four new care facilities.

Burt said UBC now trains all students who conduct animal research according to the CCAC’s guidelines. She added that the university has fulfilled a major recommendation in the report by continuing to supervise research projects after they are approved by UBC’s Animal Care Committee (ACC), the in-house group responsible for overseeing animal research.

Brian Vincent, executive director of activist group STOP UBC Animal Research, said that he thinks the CCAC guidelines for animal research are too lax. “Even [the CCAC has] determined that UBC is not in compliance with … voluntary guidelines,” said Vincent.

His group has been pushing UBC for years to put out more information about its animal research, but he says that releasing this report isn’t enough. STOP has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests over the past two years, asking for information such as the names of ACC members and where primates used in UBC research come from. These requests have gone unanswered by the university, said Vincent.

Burt said this report was released because of pressure from the public. In 2010, STOP sent a letter to UBC that was signed by 60 animal advocacy groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Vancouver Humane Society and the UBC Social Justice Centre. The letter demanded that the university “fully disclose information about its animal research program.” Since then, UBC has released a trickle of data, including the 2010 revelation that the university had conducted research on 211,764 animals that year.

The release of the report “wasn’t a one-time deal,” said Burt. She said UBC will likely release the next CCAC report as well, which is due in 2013.