Understanding Animal Research
|Wendy Jarrett, CEO
Professor Frances Balkwill, Chair
Understanding Animal Research (UAR) is a British advocacy group formed in late 2008 through the merger of the Research Defence Society and the Coalition for Medical Progress. Its main aims are to "broaden understanding and acceptance of the humane use of animals in biomedical research in the UK, to advance science and medicine".
The Research Defence Society (RDS) was founded in 1908 "to make known the facts as to experiments on animals in this country; the immense importance to the welfare of mankind of such experiments and the great saving of human life and health directly attributable to them." Within a year, the society had over 2000 members with branches across the country organising lectures and debates. Over the next century the RDS campaigned against animal rights extremism including lobbying for a strengthened version of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill in 1994 and setting up a Legal Defence Fund in 1989 to pay the legal costs of scientists who were seeking libel actions.
The Coalition for Medical Progress was launched in 2003 as part of a wider alliance to communicate the benefits of animal research to the wider public. In 1999, 65% of people agreed with the statement "I have a lack of trust in the regulatory system about animal research". By 2007, this has fallen to 35%.
When the organisations merged Dr Simon Festing, executive director of the Research Defence Society, became its first chief executive. In November 2012 Wendy Jarrett, who formerly worked at NICE, took over as Chief Executive at UAR.
UAR is a membership organization with over 110 organizational members as well as individual supporters. It is funded by its members who come from various sectors including academic, pharmaceutical, charities, research funders, professional and learned societies, and trades unions - all of whom support the use of animals in medical research. UAR consider that animal research is vital to the future of medical research; former Chief Executive Simon Festing said "there are still many things we just can't do without using animals. We can't study movement or brain function in a test tube. We can't get computers to do things that are quite simple, such as catch a cough. It is about working towards treatments and cures for very devastating diseases, from hepatitis to Parkinson's."
UAR were involved in the development and surrounding discussions of EU Directive 63/2010, which harmonised animal welfare standards in labs throughout the EU. UAR have applauded the quality of welfare for animals used in research in the UK, saying that it is held to the highest standards in the world. They also run a speaker programme, providing researchers to speak at schools across Britain, as part of their resources for teachers.
The website provides extensive information, including statistics and videos, and news on animal research in the UK and beyond. In addition to the Understanding Animal Research Website the organisation has created AnimalResearch.Info a website that provides peer-reviewed, fully referenced information on animal research.
In 2012, Understanding Animal Research, responding to a small dip in public support for animal research, announced the Declaration of Openness with 41 organisations, including charities, pharmaceuticals and universities, promising to take part "in an ongoing conversation about why and how animals are used in research and the benefits of this". Understanding Animal Research has also been active online, launching the Science Action Network to "challenge mis-information about animal research" using social media.
- Understanding Animal Research: About Us
- Publications of the Research Defence Society: March 1908-1909; Selected by the committee. London: Macmillan. 1909. p. xiv.
- Ilman, John (2008). Animal Research in Medicine: 100 years of politics, protest and progress. The Story of the Research Defence Society. Research Defence Society. ISBN 978-0-9560008-04.
- UAR: History and Structure
- Wendy Jarrett to be new UAR CEO
- How does the MRC support animal welfare?
- The Scotsman: Shameful toll of medical experiments on monkeys in Scotland
- Understanding Animal Research: European Directive
- BBC: Government retains UK's strict animal testing regime
- Public engagement opportunities for MRC research students/scientists
- AnimalResearch.Info Web site,
- Ipsos-MORI: Views on the use of animals in scientific research
- Guardian: Public Opposition to Animal Testing Grows
- UAR: Science Action Network