HRA responds to statement from Uni. Newcastle regarding smoke inhalation experiments on mice.

Following media coverage of our recent case study, University of Newcastle issued a public statement in an attempt to justify their use of mice in smoke inhalation experiments. The following is HRA’s response to that statement.

University of Newcastle: “We understand that the use of animals in research into human health and conditions is challenging for members of our society.”

HRA response: Of course it is challenging because it is cruel and inhumane, and increasingly, members of our society - including scientists - are acknowledging that animal experiments are NOT predictive of human outcomes. There are many differences between mice and humans, including intricate yet crucial differences in genetics, molecular structure, metabolism etc. Humans are not 70kg versions of mice!

 University of Newcastle: “The University is firmly committed to the ethical treatment of animals involved in research and ensures that research involving animals has merit and is conducted with high standards of scientific integrity. Our Animal Ethics Committee is made up of community members, animal welfare representatives, veterinary scientists and academics.”

HRA response: Such integrity must be brought into question if it involves subjecting animals to noxious substances, whilst restraining them in smoking chambers until they succumb to altered lung function.  It is not ethical to then subject them to the chemical damage to their intestines by injecting them with trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS) causing painful colitis with symptoms that would include pain, bleeding and diarrhea.

How can this be considered ethical treatment when it allows them to suffer these painful and stressful conditions without providing analgesics?

Animal Ethics Committees are institutionalised and self-regulated. They do NOT guarantee that the research is justified. We wonder, did the Category C members of the committee (those representing the animals’ welfare) have any objections to the research going ahead and/or were they outvoted?

 University of Newcastle: “Research approved by the University’s Animal Ethics Committee is reviewed under rigorous ethics guidelines to protect the welfare of animals by ensuring that their use in research is always humane, considerate, responsible and justified.”

HRA response: The procedures these mice were subjected to are clearly not humane, and certainly unjustified considering they are a totally different species. If the University’s Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) is satisfied with its decision to allow these procedures to be undertaken, the AEC should provide their deliberations to members of the public, and at the very least, answer correspondence directed to them by concerned members of the public.

University of Newcastle: “Where animal models are used, they present an opportunity to research human illnesses in an environment that simulates human biological function and minimises misleading results given using non-animal methods. The similarity of the reproductive and nervous systems between mice and humans means that human disease in these biological systems can be better understood.”

HRA response: The best case scenario is that the illness is SIMULATED. It does not take into consideration the many environmental factors experienced by human patients.

We strongly argue that non-animal methods can provide reliable human–relevant results and it is the animal models that provide the misleading results. Take for example the numerous documented examples of animal research delaying progress such as penicillin, blood transfusions and development of the Polio vaccine – all delayed due to reliance of data from animal experiments.

We also point out that animal smoke models have limitations with every research group/institute using its own protocol for exposure and duration and varying amounts of toxic compounds used.

University of Newcastle: “The University remains committed to our goal of undertaking ground-breaking research that makes a difference to public health and wellbeing.”

HRA response: What alternatives were considered by the ethics committee? Had they been in contact with researchers from Emulate Inc in the United States which is developing lung on a chip and other advanced technologies such as the robotic smoking machine? Is the university investing in methodologies which do not involve animals and instead focusing on human-relevant outcomes?

Humane Research Australia remains highly critical of ongoing experiments that continue to expose animals to incredible suffering for little or no benefit to humans. We hold that an artificially recreated disease in a once healthy animal does not make for a reliable model for the humane condition.

Go Back

© 2016 Humane Research Australia (ABN 17 208 630 818)  Terms & Conditions