A law passed in 2016—the 21st Century Cures Act—has given the research industry the opening that it has sought to reduce oversight of the treatment of animals. This law requires a review of all regulations and policies “for the care and use of laboratory animals” with the goal being “to reduce administrative burden on investigators while maintaining the integrity and credibility of research findings and protection of research animals.” The commitment to that last goal is debatable. A panel composed entirely of industry representatives submitted a number of proposals for alleviating the “regulatory burden” imposed on researchers. A primary goal appears to be the elimination of the annual inspection and the requirement to conduct a literature search for alternatives to painful procedures—requirements that have been on the books for more than 30 years.
At a “listening session” with the agencies tasked under the law with reporting back to Congress, AWI President Cathy Liss challenged researchers to produce proof of this so-called burden. She also reminded them of the lip service that has been given to the mantra “good animal care and good animal science go hand in hand” and asked how rolling back the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act is consistent with the industry’s supposed commitment to the protection of research animals. This is an ongoing process in which AWI is firmly engaged, and we are determined that “promoting regulatory efficiency” will not be done at the expense of animal welfare or sound science.