The Flemish Ethics Committees on Animal Testing play a central role in the protection of laboratory animals in Flanders. These ethics committees are responsible for the assessment of research projects involving laboratory animals. In 2020, the Flemish government commissioned Technopolis Group to develop an evaluation tool to evaluate the functioning of the ethics committees. In addition, the evaluation tool was applied to the 18 Flemish ethics committees as a baseline measurement.
Laboratory animals are used in scientific research to gain knowledge on the human and animal body and its function in health and disease, for the development and production of medicines and vaccines, and to gain practical experience in the treatment of humans or animals. The use of laboratory animals in research is a sensitive topic. Not only should the welfare of laboratory animals be properly ensured, but it is also of importance that continuous attention is paid to the relevance of animal experiments in view of rapid developments of 3R alternatives (replacement, reduction and refinement).
The results of the baseline measurement were summarised in a report with recommendations to the Flemish Animal Welfare Service (in Dutch: Dienst Dierenwelzijn) and, indirectly, to the ethics committees themselves. The report was well received and the steering committee that supervised the assignment is proceeding as work group to start the implementation of recommendations.
Flanders continues to work on improving animal welfare and reducing the use of laboratory animals. In this regard, a number of objectives were set in the policy note on animal welfare for the period 2019-2024, including the organisation of ‘round tables’ and drafting of an action plan for the reduction of animal testing. This assignment too is conducted by Technopolis and specifically concerns the organisation of a dialogue in which, within different domains and with various stakeholders, the opportunities for reduction are explored. Technopolis has experience in guiding discussions on sensitive topics as well as working with different type of stakeholders. By facilitating the round tables from a neutral and impartial position, we aim to contribute to a translation of these discussions into an action plan supported by all stakeholders.