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New legislation to impact medical research

Health Industry Hub | March 15, 2024 |

Medical: Championed by Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst, the Animal Research Amendment Bill 2023, has successfully passed the New South Wales Lower House. The bill, which aims to halt two particularly inhumane and scientifically questionable testing methods employed by medical research institutions and universities, was approved after previously clearing the Upper House last month.

The impetus for the ban follows the issuance of a policy statement by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in December 2023, effectively phasing out NHMRC funding for research employing inhumane methods on a national scale.

The legislation targets the controversial nose-only method of forced smoke inhalation, a practice utilised by a research team at Sydney’s Centenary Institute. This method involves subjecting mice to confinement within a tube while attached to a smoking apparatus, where they are compelled to inhale the equivalent of up to 12 cigarettes twice daily for a period of up to 18 weeks before being euthanised for analysis of disease indicators.

Additionally, the bill addresses the widely criticised forced swim test, a behavioural despair assessment conducted on rodents to evaluate potential antidepressant drugs. This test entails placing a mouse or rat in a beaker of water without an escape route, forcing them to swim until exhaustion.

The legislative move aligns closely with the primary recommendation of a 2022 NSW Inquiry into animal use in medical research, which advocated for the swift elimination of these cruel testing protocols. The inquiry committee determined that the adverse impact inflicted upon animals outweighs the purported human health benefits derived from such experiments.

Expressing jubilation at the passing of the crucial amendment, Animal-Free Science Advocacy (AFSA) spokesperson Rachel Smith remarked, “Contrary to claims otherwise, this ban will not only alleviate animal suffering but also advance medical research.”

Ms Smith emphasised that numerous alternative methods grounded in human biology, rather than rodent models, are readily available in the fields of respiratory and mental health research.

“The forced swim test and forced smoke inhalation have been widely discredited both scientifically and ethically, and this ban cannot come soon enough,” she added.

In light of this landmark legislation, AFSA calls for widespread adoption of the NHMRC policy by all research funders, as well as amendments to state and territory animal welfare Acts to expressly prohibit the two cruel testing methods. Furthermore, the organisation advocates for revisions to the Scientific Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes to formally outlaw the forced swim test.

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