Mice in scientific research facilities are often kept alone and in their own faeces without anywhere to hide or burrow as they would in the real world. Image Credit: We Animals Media

Humane Research Australia calls on the University of Newcastle to ‘Stop Suffocating Progress’.

UPDATE: Since release, the University of Newcastle has confirmed that they will no longer use the nose-only method of smoke exposure and have decommissioned all equipment. 

Melbourne-based organisation Humane Research Australia (HRA) has intensified their ‘Forced to Smoke’ campaign opposing smoke inhalation research conducted at the University of Newcastle with a public ultimatum asking the University: When will you stop forcing animals to smoke?

A billboard spotlighting this unethical animal research was launched on Monday, July 11, 2022, on Lambton Road, in the Newcastle suburb of Broadmeadow targeting commuters heading along the main arterial from the inner west to the CBD.

In October 2021, HRA released a report titled Optimising Inhalation Research (1), which reviews the validity, translatability, and animal welfare implications of this research methodology.  The University of Newcastle was an early-adopter of the most severe method of inhalation research involving the ‘nose-only’ approach, where mice are restrained in narrow inhalation chambers and exposed to smoke through their nose and head. HRA reached out directly to the University to discuss the findings of the report.

In May 2022, HRA’s report was acknowledged in a response from the University to HRA, which indicated that the University was phasing out this method. However, this was contradicted during evidence given at the recent NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the use primates and other animals in medical research (2, 3). Concerns over use of this nose-only smoke exposure method were raised multiple times during the Inquiry. Whilst many institutions do not permit this method, and alternative methods exist (4) the University of Newcastle continued to defend this cruel method (3).

On Friday 1 July, HRA received a follow up letter from the University advising HRA that all research activities conducted at the University of Newcastle that involved the ‘nose-only’ inhalation device had been completed and the inhalation equipment was in the process of being decommissioned. HRA welcomes this promising news from the University but is calling for greater accountability.

HRA CEO Rachel Smith states: ‘We are calling for the University of Newcastle to take the final step and publicly commit to a permanent ban of forced smoke inhalation research on animals. This type of research does not align with a modern and forward-thinking university and there is an opportunity for the University of Newcastle to lead the way. Given the increased scrutiny over the use of this method, we hope the University of Newcastle’s decision to end this research will reverberate on other institutes currently using or considering forced smoke inhalation studies on animals in the future.”

NOTES:

  1. humaneresearch.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Optimising-inhalation-research-transitioning-to-human-relevant-research.pdf
  2. https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2857
  3. https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/transcripts/2922/Transcript%20-%20UNCORRECTED%20-%20PC%202%20-%20Animals%20in%20medical%20research%20in%20NSW%20-%201%20June%202022.pdf
  4. JRC Technical Report: Advanced Non-animal Models in Biomedical Research – Respiratory Tract Diseases (2020). Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/science-update/tackling-respiratory-diseases-advanced-non-animal-models
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