Professor Andreas Kreiter and his team fulfill all legal requirements, according to the court. The experiments should have been authorized by the authorities a long time ago.
With its ruling, the court sides with the legal reasoning of Professor Andreas Kreiter. He has fulfilled all necessary requirements for an extension of his experiments and has been able to scientifically explain that there are no scientifically recognized alternative methods available. The Bremen Senator for Health “knowingly and unlawfully delayed the decision regarding the extension application submitted by the applicant” and was not able to outline in detail that the project is not scientifically justified, stated the court. She has in no way honored the research findings of the past years. Insofar as she referred to alternative methods in this context, she did so for the first time during legal proceedings. Andreas Kreiter had attached a statement from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment to his original application for approval. The Administrative Court stated: "The respondent (Senator for Health) has neither dealt with the earlier assessment of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, nor has she requested up-to-date expert information on alternative methods." Why the respondent, who fundamentally questioned the project contrary to the original approval, refrained from using external expertise is not clear to the court.
President Appeals to Political Sector
“With this decision, the court has ensured the freedom of science that is anchored in our constitution,” stated the University President, Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter. “I appeal to Bremen’s politicians to respect and protect said freedom. It is a great asset for our liberal, democratic society.” Animal testing in science is a topic that urgently requires that all facts and aspects are assessed and discussed in a differentiated manner, explained the President. “Biomedical development without animal testing is not possible at the moment, even if researchers make use of alternative methods wherever possible.” They are subject to comprehensive legal requirements, which are fulfilled at the University of Bremen. The court ruling once more confirmed this. “That is why political and public debates should not be held in an emotionally charged manner,” warned Scholz-Reiter.
Researchers must submit an application for extension of their experiments to the Bremen authorities every three years. In July 2021, Professor Kreiter duly applied for the authorization of a one-year extension of his experiments from the authorities. However, he received no decision from the Senator's Office for Health, Women's Affairs, and Consumer Protection within the legally stipulated period - despite repeated inquiries being made.
For this reason, the University of Bremen and Professor Andreas Kreiter submitted an urgent application for legal protection to the Bremen Administrative Court at the beginning of November 2021. They did this together for reasons of legal certainty. An interim decision was made by the court on November 24, 2021. Said decision ensured that the court would have enough time to assess the complex situation. At the same time, the decision also served the purpose of enabling Professor Kreiter to continue the experiments at his institute beyond the end of the current authorized period (November 30, 2021), thus avoiding unnecessary damage to animals and researchers. What is noteworthy is that the court had already clearly communicated its stand with regard to the authorities’ behavior.
This was not the first disagreement between the scientific and political sectors in this matter. After a legal battle that lasted many years, the Federal Administrative Court ruled in favor of Professor Kreiter and the University of Bremen in 2014, after the Bremen health senator's office at the time rejected the scientist’s research application.
Information on Macaque Brain Research at the University of Bremen
Basic research in the field of brain research takes place with macaques at the University of Bremen. The researchers want to understand how the brain functions. To date, scientific work has only been able to explain how perception, engagement, or memory are created within the brain in an insufficient manner. However, this knowledge is a requirement in order to be able to better treat diverse and serious brain diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, dementia, or numerous psychiatric illnesses. The brain is the most complex organ and its manner of functioning is hardly understood.
There are no alternatives to experiments with animals for many important issues, such as neural mechanisms of engagement, behavior, and memory. The researchers always act in a responsible manner and are subject to comprehensive, legal requirements, to which they carefully adhere.
All experiments that have been carried out fully comply with the requirements specified in the EU Directive 2010/63, the German Animal Welfare Act, and the German Animal Welfare Testing Ordinance. The animals are held in a species-appropriate manner and undergo daily health and welfare checks that are carried out by trained staff.
Information on Animal Testing at the University of Bremen
Animal testing is the subject of controversial discussions in the public sphere and often, mis-information is spread. To counteract such false information and create transparency, there is a website on animal testing at the University of Bremen: www.uni-bremen.de/forschung/tierversuche-in-forschung-und-lehre
University of Bremen a Member of DFG’s Transparent Animal Experiments Initiative
The Permanent Senate Commission on Animal Protection and Experimentation of the German Research Foundation (DFG) established the Transparent Animal Experiments Initiative in the summer of 2021 - together with the Understanding Animal Research initiative (Tierversuche verstehen). The aim is to promote transparency and open discussion on research with animals. Along with numerous other German universities and non-university research institutes, the University of Bremen is a member of the initiative.
- You can read the press release on the court’s decision dated February 04, 2022, here: www.verwaltungsgericht.bremen.de/aktuelles/pressemitteilungen-11514 (in German only)
- The court ruling (5 V 2285/21, Tierversuchsantrag, Beschluss vom 03.02.2022): www.verwaltungsgericht.bremen.de/entscheidungen/entscheidungsuebersicht-13039 (in German only)
- You can find the court’s full reasoning for the interim decision in German here: Animal protection, 5 V 2285/21, decision dated November 24, 2021: www.verwaltungsgericht.bremen.de/entscheidungen/entscheidungsuebersicht-13039
- Information on animal testing at the University of Bremen is available in German here: www.uni-bremen.de/forschung/tierversuche-in-forschung-und-lehre
- Information on Professor Andreas Kreiter’s Cognitive Neurophysiology research group at the Brain Research Institute in German: www.uni-bremen.de/forschung/tierversuche-in-forschung-und-lehre/arbeitsgruppe-kognitive-neurophysiologie
- Additional photos of the macaques in the enclosure at the University of Bremen are available upon request.
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