Veterinarians involved with the monitoring of research animals have come together to establish a network known as the Groep Proefdier Dierenartsen (GPD), or Veterinarians Group for Research Animals. The network aims to serve as a forum for veterinarians working in the sector so they can regularly share their experiences with each other. The first meeting was held at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR) in Lelystad.
WBVR veterinarian Fuus Thate is one of the co-founders of the GPD network. “Working with test animals is different to working with livestock or pets. Those of us working in this field would like a way to share knowledge and experiences, which is why we’ve taken the step to launch this network,” she explains.
The group’s stated mission is as follows: ‘GPD’s mission is to bring together all veterinarians working with test animals and provide them with a platform to exchange information as a way of developing their professional sector.’ The group also aims to increase the visibility of this specific subset of veterinarians. “We’d like to raise the profile of our fellow veterinarians and build good relationships with other professionals in the field of animal testing and veterinary services,” says Thate. The group’s other priority areas include offering training as part of ‘lifelong learning’ and the general development of veterinary services for test animals as a professional field.
A total of 25 veterinarians attended the GPD’s first meeting. Speaking on behalf of WBVR, Hetty Schreurs provided an overview of the work of the research institute. Three break-out groups then discussed a variety of subjects, including training (of veterinarians themselves as well as of staff at the research sites) and the tensions that lie at the interface of the Experiments on Animals Act and the Animals Act. “When we work with test animals we always have to bear in mind why we are doing so,” explains Thate. “We have to comply to both laws, but they might sometimes have conflicting regulations. This was one of the topics we discussed.”
There will likely be a follow-up meeting later this year. The GPD’s aim is to meet up in person at least twice a year. The group is also working on developing and assessing the Code of Practices in relation to veterinary topics. “A Code of Practice is something you establish within a profession. It describes how you operate, and establishes how you deal with deviations from standard procedure. Such a code exists for veterinarians, and one of its tenets is that veterinarians are morally obliged to care for animals. The Netherlands National Committee for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes has several Codes of Practices. These have been compiled by experts in the field of animal testing. Our group has been asked to help keep these codes up to date. We still need to consider how exactly we will fulfil that role,” says Thate.