Stop UBC Animal Research has submitted a petition to the university in the hopes of ending certain forms of animal testing.
The petition, which has 21,632 signatures, requests that UBC end its most invasive animal experiments, in which the pain level ranges from moderate to severe. Some of these tests inflict pain which is “near, at, or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized, conscious animals,” according to the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).
President of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society of BC, and director of its Stop UBC Animal Research campaign Laura-Leah Shaw said the group submitted the petition to the university in early 2013 through Stephen Toope’s Executive Assistant, Gerald Calderon, but since then, the university has not changed its animal research policies.
“We didn’t hear back, which was disappointing. So, we felt that perhaps we need to get to [Toope] directly, and needed a greater audience to do it,” said Shaw.
Shaw presented the petition to UBC’s Senate on April 16. UBC spokesperson Randy Schmidt said the petition has been passed over to the office of the VP research, but declined further comment.
During the presentation, Shaw argued against the value of animal testing and questioned to reliability of the results it produces. She said other institutions are making progress towards more humane experimentation, while UBC is showing no signs of substantial change in the eyes of animal rights activists.
“With Dr. Gupta set to take the helm at UBC, you are at a crossroads,” said Shaw at the conclusion of her presentation. She posed a question to the senators: will the university continue to support current animal research practices, or is it time to move on to new, animal-free approaches to experimentation?
“The one regret I have about the meeting is that I didn’t point out that people should look at the petition,” said Shaw in an interview. “The comments are amazing.”
In the past, Stop UBC Animal Research put pressure on the university to start publishing the number of animals that are used in research annually, said Shaw. In 2010, UBC became the first Canadian university to publish the animal research statistics it sends to the CCAC.
“They’re cooperating in that regard,” said Shaw.
UBC student group Activists for Animals voiced their support for the Stop UBC Animal Research campaign’s efforts.
Caroline Lemieux, president of Activists for Animals, said the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society and its Stop UBC Animal Research campaign have been leaders in challenging the societal view of animals as objects.
“I think science is a lot about critical thinking,” said Lemieux. “Critical thought needs to be used to look at the use of animals in science.”
Next school year, Stop UBC Animal Research hopes to build a strong relationship with UBC administration, notably new president Arvind Gupta, to ensure the wellbeing of animals still used in research.