Database AnimalTestInfo: German initiative for more transparency in animal experiments
The third amendment to the Animal Protection Act provides for more protection of animals when they are used for scientific purposes. In this context, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has been mandated to inform the public about all authorised projects with animals in Germany. In line with this mandate, the BfR has developed the database AnimalTestInfo which is now being made available to the public online at www.animaltestinfo.de. "With this database, everybody can get quickly comprehensive information on authorised animal experiments", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "We are now also making this BfR application available to other European member states who implement the guideline on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes." The BfR has published this initiative in an article in the scientific magazine "Nature" (Nature, 519, 33, 5 March 2015; doi:10.1038/519033d).
In the European Union, about 12 million animals are used for scientific experiments per year, 3 million of these in Germany alone. New scientific insights into the abilities of animals to experience and express pain, suffering, fear and permanent damage puts a new perspective on the argument that animal experiments are ineluctable.
On 1 February 2013, the Federal Council approved the Third Bill to Amend the Animal Protection Act. This bill implements at the national level the goals of the European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. One of the special goals of the new legislation is the consistent implementation of the 3R Principle, i.e. avoiding animal experiments through the use of alternative methods (replacement), reducing the number of test animals to an absolute minimum (reduction), and minimising suffering in animal experiments (refinement).
The database AnimalTestInfo contains summaries intelligible to the general public of all animal experiment projects in Germany whose implementation is initiated by the scientific research institutes of the universities, the industries and the government and which have been authorised by the competent authorities of the federal states. The applicants for projects themselves are responsible for the content of the project summary published by the BfR.
These summaries contain information on the purpose of the animal experiments, what is planned with the experiment, what benefits may arise from the animal experiments and what implications for animal health are to be expected. The number and species of the animals intended to be used in the experiment (mice, rats etc.) and all measures taken to avoid use of animals in the first place, to limit their numbers, and to improve their welfare are also stated. The database can be searched by these criteria.
The Centre for Recording and Assessing Replacement and Complementary Methods to Animal Experiments (ZEBET) is also based at the BfR.
About ZEBET at the BfR
Based at the BfR, the Centre for Recording and Assessing Replacement and Complementary Methods to Animal Experiments (ZEBET) researches, develops and validates alternative methods in its own laboratory adopting the 3R principle, predominantly in the area of legally required toxicological test procedures. It has a record of special success in the development of alternative methods in the area of phototoxcitiy, toxicity to skin and eyes and development toxicity using embryonic stem cells. The latter is a method for investigating the potential of a substance to impair the grown and development of organisms.
About the BfR
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.