The importance of animal welfare in scientific research – Part 2

  • Nuri, you have chosen to study General Biology and Marine Science in order to become a Science Journalist. Is animal welfare in scientific research a topic which you would still consider as newsworthy?

Definitely yes! I would even say “more than ever”. Over the last few decades, advances in molecular- and neurobiology have increased the number of experiments involving animals. For a lot of studies, it is still seen without any alternative to kill test animals before or after an experiment. The same applies to academic education.

  • You mean experiments which involve the killing of test animals are still part of academic teaching programs? Do you have experience with that?

Yes, at least from my experience this is the case. I have worked with fish, rats, frogs, snails and flies. Some of them were already dead when we started working with them, some we had to suppress ourselves. For my BSc thesis I worked on gene expression analysis in sea cucumber. I sacrificed one individual by putting it into liquid nitrogen. In most academic institutions this is a daily routine.

  • How do you feel about this? Do you regret that you took the life of that sea cucumber?

I am really conflicted about this topic. As is often the case I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In general, I dislike the idea of using an animal’s life for science. For instance, I think that the amount of test animals should be reduced. Namely for teaching purposes the academic stuff should think about creative alternatives. Then again, in some cases it might be necessary and there is no other alternative. To be honest when I took the life of that sea cucumber for my BSc thesis, I did not really think much about it. It took me a while to reflect my actions. I was in my thesis bubble and it seemed logic. I could not have got my results without killing that sea cucumber. However, did I really have to pick a topic for my BSc thesis, where the sacrifice of a living thing was necessary?

  • During the Spring School, your group considered to crush snails in order to perform your experiments according to the literature. What were thoughts on that?

Well, I am afraid I have become a bit blunted already. I was not really thinking of the negative aspects of crushing snails for our experiments. Retrospectively, that is a bit shocking. The scientific world, including myself, should reconsider their mindset about animal welfare. I am really happy that we raised that discussion in our group and that we resigned the idea of crushing the snails. It might be often the only way to go, but especially for a project like ours it seems indeed very pointless.


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