When animal welfare is better controlled than the health of the population

No offense to the aficionados of miracle solutions, but the discovery of new drugs requires experiments made on animal models; most often rodents or small mammals (cf this article for details).  There was a not too distant time when there was no control over the maintenance and life conditions of these animals with obvious abuses and unacceptable conditions (no noise control for example). Since then, things have changed: there are now animal welfare verification structures, and the need to file specific applications containing the type of manipulations that will be done with every details and in which animal facility. These files are long and tedious, requiring to describe in detail what will be done, even when advances in science are often unexpected, thus requiring to change the preestablished programs; which become more and more difficult. It is of course understandable to set some rules to respect the life conditions of laboratory animals, but the pendulum has gone too far in the other direction and as in many fields, the bureaucracy and the cohort of zealous officials who literally apply texts written by technocrats who have never set foot in a laboratory have taken over. Let’s judge!  To move the mice from an animal house to the laboratory -sometimes a few meters apart- you need a car sworn (by the regional prefect) with the euro and carbon cost that goes with it! Inside a lab, it is strictly forbidden to move a cage with mice inside if the cage passes through a corridor belonging to a structure other than the one that acquired it. You never know, there could be an accident, a bad encounter. As a result, walls have to be moved and labs have to be rebuilt in order to respect these abstract rules without any logic. Better, unforeseen controls take place and if a rule is not respected, the lab shut down and researchers and technicians are losing their jobs. One does not joke with the animal welfare and too bad is the discovery of new drugs has to face the consequences.

It is interesting to compare this situation with the one of the sanitary controls of our food. Thus, a company like Lactalis that sells most of the milk consumed in France, does not undergo unexpected control of the health services of the State! It took a health scandal with Salmonella and other causes of infection for many children to make it clear that, as in Mrs Thatcher’s time and the mad cow scandals, the company is doing its own controls with the independence and efficiency that we can easily imagine. Members of the Parliament are now asking that this company, like others, be subject to the unannounced control rules with immediate sanctions if a malfunction is proven. Maybe it would be good to apply at the same time to the population the rules provided for the well-being of our laboratory mice! But it seems that Lactalis lobbies are far more effective than those who want to work to discover new drugs.

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