The use of animals in research has been in the news frequently in the past year, from the People’s Petition earlier in 2006 to the more recent publication of the Weatherall report in December supporting the use of non-human primates in research of biological or medical importance. Indeed, as pharmacologists you know all too well that animals are still necessary in medical and scientific research and need to be aware of the arguments in favour and against as well as the current status of the debate.

The Research Defence Society (RDS) is the leading UK organisation representing doctors and scientists in the debate concerning experiments on animals. It recently commissioned an opinion poll of GPs that showed that 96% of family doctors agree that animal research has made an important contribution to many medical advances. The results were announced by Health Minister Andy Burnham in October last year.

RDS is the only organisation which brings together the academic and commercial sector to work on policy, representation and communications. RDS engages in dialogue with stakeholders, and interacts with legislators, regulators and government.

It has about 5000 members, both individuals and organisations. Members are entitled to advice, information and assistance on all aspects of animal research, such as dealing with administrative bodies or the media. All members receive regular information through publications – including the quarterly newsletter RDS News – and meetings, and may sign up to the RDS Email News Service. RDS educational material, produced primarily for schools and colleges, is also available to members.

The annual subscription for full individual membership is currently £25 per annum payable by direct debit. A membership form is included with this edition of pA2 and may also be downloaded and printed from the RDS web site. (www.rds-net.org.uk).

RDS believes that research using animals should be well regulated, conducted humanely and only when there is no alternative. Not all medical research needs to use live animals - useful results are also obtained by using computers, studying cells and tissues, and some studies that are done on patients and human populations. RDS would like to see a time when animal research that causes pain, suffering or lasting harm is no longer required, at least in many areas of research. However, society has unmet medical needs and there are gaps in our knowledge. RDS considers that current technical and scientific limitations mean that full replacement is unachievable in the foreseeable future

Most of the activities of RDS fall into four categories: communication, policy and lobbying, information and networking, and support for members. It publishes a quarterly members’ newsletter, RDS News, which is essential reading for all those interested in animal research and animal rights issues; leaflets and more extensive reports; runs an email news service, a comprehensive website and blog (www.rdsblog.info; monitors both media and parliamentary coverage of relevant issues, as well as animal rights groups’ publications; and provides supporting material to other organisations.

For more information: Corina Hadjiodysseos, (Communications Officer)