Throwback to the Study Day on the ‘Action Plan to Reduce Animal Testing’

Posted on: 27/05/2024

Context

In 2021, the Animal Welfare Department of the Flemish Region launched 'The Roundtable Conversations' to discuss the replacement and reduction of animal testing with researchers and organisations from different (biomedical) disciplines. This resulted in the publication of 33 actions from 20 organisations. These actions are compiled in an overall 'Action Plan to Reduce Animal Testing'. This initiative was officially presented during the study day organised by the Flemish region on the 7th of November in Brussels.

 

Action Plan to Reduce Animal Testing

Eveline Roose from the ‘Departement Omgeving’ opened the Study Day by highlighting the importance of the topic, and invited five organisations to present their ongoing and future actions in short pitches:

  • ‘Building an organoid platform’ – Prof. Hugo Vankelecom (KU Leuven)
  • ‘Elaborating good practices regarding the use of animals in higher education’ – Prof. An Zwijsen (VLIR Working Group on Animal Experiments)
  • ‘Inventory of technical expertise with potential contribution to reduce of animal testing in non-biomedical research areas’ – Prof. Peter Brouckaert (UGent)
  • ‘Promoting animal-free methods in biomedical research at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel’ – Em. Prof. Vera Rogiers (VUB/IC-3Rs)
  • ‘Transition animal-free: identifying obstacles, societal expectations, opportunities and priorities in view of a problem-solving strategy’ - Michel Vandenbosch (Gaia)

After these short pitches, the speakers were invited to participate in a panel debate moderated by Stef Aerts (Odisee Hogeschool). The speakers discussed various topics based on questions from the public, including (continuous) education of the next generation scientists, the importance and relevance of alternative methods, funding opportunities, challenges ahead etc. One of the main important elements is the dialogue between the different stakeholders (Universities, Government, Industry, NGO’s, etc).

Anke Nooijen from Technopolis Group then provided more background information about the initiative, the milestones achieved and the upcoming steps forward. An important opportunity in this initiative is to strengthen synergies and collaborations.

During the lunch break, a few organizations who contributed to the Action Plan presented their work as a poster including VITO, VIB and RE-Place. The RE-Place team presented its contribution including the ongoing expansion of the RE-Place database, the dissemination of information on NAMs and the organisation of events (Symposium, Study Day and Educational Webinars).

 

Interactive Sessions on Opportunities for Reduction

In the afternoon, five interactive sessions were organised to trigger discussions with the participants:

  • Session A ‘Organoids as an alternative to animal testing’ moderated by Prof. Hugo Vankelecom (KU Leuven),
  • Session B ‘Access to human material as an alternative to animal testing’ moderated by Sjors Van Kats (ETB-BISLIFE) and Erica Van Oort (TPI),
  • Session C ‘Sharing of laboratory animals with a view to reducing the number of laboratory animals’ moderated by Piet Dierckx (Janssen) & Mieke Pillen (Poulpharm),
  • Session D ‘Education and training of researchers on alternatives to animal testing’ moderated by Em. Prof. Vera Rogiers (VUB/IC-3Rs),
  • Session E ‘Funding and support for use and development of alternatives to animal testing’ moderated by Eveline Roose (Dierenwelzijn Vlaanderen).

After the interactive sessions, each moderator provided some short feedback to the public. Finally, the day was completed with a plenary session on ‘Communicating about Controversial Topics’ by science communicator Julie De Smedt. She highlighted the importance of listening to other people and communicating with them instead of to them. Keep the communication lines open, listen and ask questions to better understand different points of view. Clarify what you mean, and always be respectful towards one another. A very nice key message to close the day 😊

 

Highlights

The study day welcomed more than 135 participants from academics, industry, spin-offs and the government. It was the perfect opportunity to brainstorm on new ideas and identify new partners for future collaborations.

You can find our summary video here.

Resources

Study day on the ‘Action plan to reduce animal testing’, 7th November 2023, Brussels