In 1982, the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) incorporated as a non-profit organization with the stated goal of overseeing research on animals. The CCAC however, only provides oversight of publicly-funded research. Pharmaceutical and chemical companies that conduct privately-funded research are not required to adhere to the CCAC’s guidelines. And while the CCAC is primarily funded by two federal agencies (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council), it claims to be exempt from public disclosure laws, such as the Access to Information Act.
MEMBERSHIP OF THE CCAC
The CCAC is comprised of 22 member organizations. Only one – the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies – is an animal welfare group. The vast majority of CCAC members (such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, research-based pharmaceutical companies, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada) include interests that actively promote animal research.
CCAC LACKS TEETH, TRANSPARENCY
There are no federal or provincial laws in British Columbia that regulate animal use in research and education. While the CCAC has established guidelines for animal research, they are voluntary. The CCAC can release reports of non-compliance to funding agencies, but those agencies have the discretion on whether or not to continue funding the non-compliant experiments.
The CCAC establishes local Animal Care Committees (ACC) that conduct assessments of research institutions to determine if those facilities comply with CCAC guidelines. Unfortunately, those assessments are not made available to the public. In fact, the assessments are considered “confidential,” as is the composition of the ACCs. ACC members are also not permitted to reveal information about its committee’s activities. To make matters worse, disclosure of non-compliance records are not made available for public review. In short, there is essentially no public oversight of animal research in Canada, which means taxpayers have no way of knowing if UBC or any other animal research institution has violated animal care standards.
In the US, the National Institutes of Health and US Department of Agriculture publish comprehensive information about animal research institutions online. These include inspections, grants, necropsy and veterinary reports, protocols, and data. In Canada, however, information about animal research is largely hidden from the public leaving the impression that institutions like UBC have something to hide.
For more information, read: The Canadian Council on Animal Care’s Ethics Code: A Critical Evaluation, by Dr. David Sztybel and Animal Research and Testing in Canada: Inadequate protection for important interests, by Camille Labchuck.