Animal researchers face some painful truths

Earlier this week, around 150 animal researchers and their colleagues gathered in Queenstown for the annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART). This year’s theme was ‘Maintaining Social Licence in a Changing World’ and SAFE was invited to speak.

SAFE’s Director of Research and Education Professor Andrew Knight, presented on ‘Painful truths: what systematic reviews reveal about the utility of animal research,’ outlining how there are at least five reasons why animal test results are poorly predictive of human outcomes.

“Needless to say, we do not think harmful animal research should have a social licence to continue. International surveys do indicate overall, declining public support for animal research, but that support is strictly conditional on the firm understanding that such research makes tangible and important contributions to the advancement of human health, or that it provides other important social benefits, that cannot be achieved in any other way,” says Professor Knight.

“The inconvenient truth, for those who would defend harmful animal research, is that it generally fails this test. Within the scientific world, systematic reviews are generally considered to provide the most reliable forms of evidence about clinical and research questions, because they exhaustively search the scientific literature for all forms of evidence relevant to the research question. And the evidence from systematic reviews investigating the usefulness of animal research is clear. At best only a very small proportion produces the substantial public health or social benefits so often claimed.”

The presentation went very well, said Prof. Knight, “It was extremely gratifying to see this audience apparently transition from profound scepticism to acceptance and agreement. The message was received so well because it was scientifically plausible, data-rich, and every claim was referenced to published evidence. Honest scientists find it hard to argue with that.”

A detailed article expanding on these themes will be published in the forthcoming conference proceedings. Andrew Knight’s various other publications on animal research are available via his websites and

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7 September 2017