Animal Research beyond the Laboratory: Report from a Workshop on Places Other than Licensed Establishments (POLEs) in the UK

Palmer, A and Greenhough, B and Hobson-West, P and Message, R and Aegerter, J N and Belshaw, Z and Dennison, N and Dickey, R and Lane, J and Lorimer, J and Millar, K and Newman, C and Pullen, K and Reynolds, S J and Wells, D J and Witt, M J and Wolfensohn, S (2020) Animal Research beyond the Laboratory: Report from a Workshop on Places Other than Licensed Establishments (POLEs) in the UK. MDPI.

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Abstract

Research involving animals that occurs outside the laboratory raises an array of unique challenges. With regard to UK legislation, however, it receives only limited attention in terms of official guidelines, support, and statistics, which are unsurprisingly orientated towards the laboratory environment in which the majority of animal research takes place. In September 2019, four social scientists from the Animal Research Nexus program gathered together a group of 13 experts to discuss nonlaboratory research under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (A(SP)A) of 1986 (mirroring European Union (EU) Directive 2010/63/EU), which is the primary mechanism for regulating animal research in the UK. Such nonlaboratory research under the A(SP)A often occurs at Places Other than Licensed Establishments (POLEs). The primary objective of the workshop was to assemble a diverse group with experience across a variety of POLEs (e.g., wildlife field sites, farms, fisheries, veterinary clinics, zoos) to explore the practical, ethical, and regulatory challenges of conducting research at POLEs. While consensus was not sought, nor reached on every point of discussion, we collectively identified five key areas that we propose require further discussion and attention. These relate to: (1) support and training; (2) ethical review; (3) cultures of care, particularly in nonregulated research outside of the laboratory; (4) the setting of boundaries; and (5) statistics and transparency. The workshop generated robust discussion and thereby highlighted the value of focusing on the unique challenges posed by POLEs, and the need for further opportunities for exchanging experiences and sharing best practice relating to research projects outside of the laboratory in the UK and elsewhere.

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