13 / 11 / 2023
An Animal Technicians perspective on replacement
Written by an anonymous Animal Technician.
I have worked as an Animal Technician for one year and I, and my colleagues, want to be more involved in creating effective replacement strategies. Animal technicians are tasked with the care of animals in medical and scientific research laboratories. By involving Animal Technicians in the process of creating replacement strategies, we will be able to challenge possible strategies based on our research area as well as advise on areas that require urgent replacement. In addition, it would be useful for improving Culture of Care as Animal Technicians can work with project licence applications, alerting researchers where replacement strategies can be used instead. And by ensuring Animal Technicians are trained in replacement strategies, we will be able to highlight the importance of developing new methods to reduce the use of animals in research. Educational bodies we encounter, such as the Institute of Animal Technology (IAT), and the Learning Curve, could further support this by providing modules that allow technicians to further their knowledge and build confidence in using replacement technologies.
Why Animal Technicians should be involved in the Replacement of Animals in Research
Animal Technicians are on the frontline of the biomedical industry as they are responsible for the care and welfare of the animals within these institutions. Animal research is governed by the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) in which Licensed Animal Technicians are governed by conditions related to care, elimination of pain and suffering and the 3Rs. Despite all 3Rs carrying equal weight and importance, there is a growing trend surrounding the lack of support in replacement training for animal technicians, which is supported by the most recent Rawle Report. This lack of replacement training means that we are contradicting the conditions in the personal licence to focus on replacement first.
How can Animal Technicians help develop replacement strategies?
The development of replacement strategies is heavily supported by biotechnologists; however, Animal Technicians can support the use of replacement by advising researchers to vigorously research the use of replacement strategies, if they are available.
Can the change to non-animal approaches be a threat to an Animal Technician’s role?
In short, yes. But ironically Animal Technicians are governed by the conditions of ASPA to consider replacement – therefore it is our duty to put ourselves out of a job! Across the industry, Animal Technicians are highly skilled, with dexterity and flexibility across most research techniques. Therefore, if a particular method is replaced there are still opportunities for technicians to continue their role in various research areas. Alternatively, this could also open a lot more doors and opportunities for technicians to explore the non-animal techniques and further develop their skill set.
Creating a future where we can conduct our research without the use of animals
As most Animal Technicians have a background in animal sciences, we care about our animal’s welfare and want to do what is best for them. So, to imagine a world without the use of animals is difficult as we will no longer have that interaction. However, it is the best thing for the lives of our animals, and the quality of our research. It can be considered that we have done our duty and complied with our licence if we replace animal usage, and I hope that we can further develop our career to become non-Animal Technicians (NAM-T).Read about FRAME's perspective on the Rawle report Donate to help create a future with Non-Animal Technicians