Observations from a correspondent who is there, snip:
Every country regulates animal experimentation differently, and I am attending the conference, which has drawn 800 delegates from 86 countries, to better understand those differences. The delegates are a curious bunch, ranging from those who refer to animals as “companions” and insist that people have nothing to learn from experiments to those who actually conduct the experiments. All, however, share a desire to reduce animal suffering.
A note of welcome from no less than Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, is read to open the conference. It is followed by a memorial lecture for William Russell who, with Rex Burch, popularised the idea that scientists should be more thoughtful about their use of animals in experiments. The duo devised the “three Rs”, a set of principles dictating that the number of animals used should be reduced; that where their use is necessary, experiments should be refined to minimise their suffering; and that animals should be replaced with non-sentient alternatives wherever possible. Over the next few days, delegates will be examining exactly how — and indeed, whether — these principles are being followed.
After the opening speeches, a ceremony is held to commemorate the lives of animals (fish and insects explicitly included) who died in scientific experiments. Such ceremonies, which are usually ecumenical, are relatively common in Japanese research institutes.
Six men in white robes and black patent-leather platform shoes stand before a table laden with fruit and vegetables, a covered pot and two covered urns, and branches stuck with pieces of paper. Three of the men play traditional Japanese instruments while the others chant, bow and clap their hands.