Suomeksi
 
 
CAL's Mission: As Fair as Possible
– By causing as little harm as possible and only when necessary, and in a way that we can avoid using animals whenever possible, Jaakkola summarises.

​The word "laboratory animal" has a negative connotation, and today even the law talks about scientifically important projects that use animals. Jaakkola understands the connotation, but not the dated and erroneous photos of suffering laboratory animals that are circulated on, for example, the Internet. She wants to challenge these perceptions with openness, by showing and telling how laboratory animals are treated and why.


– From the 20th century onwards, every significant medical milestone has been made with the help of animal testing, Jaakkola notes.
She tells a story about how even her own mother's siblings would die from diphtheria when they were children. Animal testing has helped to, for example, develop vaccines for diphtheria, whooping cough and polio, create insulin for diabetes, find ways for preventing organ transplant rejection, and create psychiatric and blood pressure medications. Just 20 years ago, cancer was a death sentence. Now, most cancers are treatable. Today's challenges include Alzheimer's and other diseases of the central nervous system.

Animal-Rights Protectors Participate in the Application Process

Jaakkola began her current career with laboratory animals in 1983. Two years later, all animal testing became subject to authorisation, and year by year these requirements have been tightened. At the same time, researchers have sought alternative methods that do not require the use of animals, but only a few have been officially accepted as replacements for some tests that assess the safety of medicines and new chemicals.

– The use of research methods that do not require animals are not reflected in animal usage statistics, so there's a perception that researchers aren't utilising other methods, even though they are doing so all the time, Jaakkola says.

Some research requires the use of live animals for generating reliable results.
Every study that is to be done in the Central Animal Laboratory of the University of Turku requires authorisation from the project authorisation board that acts under the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland. Its members represent four groups: researchers, animal care professionals, ethicists or animal rights advocates, and veterinarians. The licence clearly states what can be done to the animal.

– I'm responsible for making sure that we obey the law and that the animals are not used without a project licence. I know exactly how many animals we have, what is being done to them and how their well-being is being monitored. If one of the animals becomes ill, the Elli system automatically notifies the researcher, the veterinarian and me, Jaakkola says.

 

Elli is the system where the personnel of the Central Animal Laboratory register each animal's information daily. It can also be used to register any suspicions concerning the welfare of the animal and, if necessary, attach pictures as well. These notification can be about for example an animal's eyes not looking bright, a nick on the animal's skin, or a bump on the animal's side.
– If the animal is not well, the researcher or veterinarian can react immediately.

Researchers Are Required to Learn How to Handle Animals

The breeding of rodents in laboratory conditions began in the 20th century, and nowadays almost all animals that are used for testing are bred in laboratories, to ensure that researchers know their exact heritage and environmental conditions.
 
– We take special care of their health, to prevent any extra bacteria or viruses from tampering with research results.
 
Even life in the laboratory is very regulated. For example, the air in the animal spaces must be changed at least 15 times per hour. The animals' food is carefully examined and even their cages and litter materials are sterilised to ensure proper hygiene.  The animals are habituated to human interaction, and humans are taught to handle the animals in a way that does not cause them any unnecessary pain.
 
– The law mandates that all those who are in contact with animals must prove that they possess the required information and skills for handling animals. We also arrange animal handling courses for researchers, Jaakkola says.
 
Most of the animals that are used by the Central Animal Laboratory of the University of Turku are mice. Other animals – mainly rats, rabbits and sometimes pigs – number about 500 a year.
 
Research conducted in the wild can include birds, fish, snakes, moles or weasels, for example. Scientific research is also conducted on livestock. A few years ago, statistics showed an additional surge of over 4000 laboratory animals: this came from dogs, as pet owners allowed researchers to take blood samples from their dogs for genetic research.
 
– The only research operation that most of the animals in the Central Animal Laboratory receive is an ear marking, during which a small tissue sample is taken from the animal, to determine its genetic factors.
 
With the help of breeding, researchers have also developed mice and rat populations that can develop certain diseases that are similar to human diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
 
– With these animal models, we can study the onset, prevention or treatment of these diseases. The actual organ-related research results are collected after the animal is euthanised, which is done at the earliest possible stage, to prevent the animal from suffering needlessly from the symptoms caused by the disease, Jaakkola says.
 
When the animal is euthanised, an estimation of the  amount of harm that the animal went through is registered to the Elli system. The scale ranges from minor to moderate and major harm. The most minor form of harm is pain that is comparable to a pinprick, whereas major harm means for example long-lasting pain or harm that cannot be alleviated enough.

 

Text and photo: Erja Hyytiäinen
Translation: Sam Parwar

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