We caught up with Karin Gabrielson Morton from The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Testing, one year after her organisation won the 2013 Lush Prize for Lobbying.
Could you describe who you are and what you do?
The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments was founded in 1964 to promote research to replace animal experiments. We were one of the first organisations in the world to award research grants specifically for the replacement of animal experimentation and support about 10-12 research projects per year.
We are also committed to long term lobbying in order to replace animal tests in regulatory requirements, as well as to tighten legislation on the use of animals, and in favour of non-animal methods.
Why were you nominated for the prize?
In the past, the positions of Swedish representatives both at EU and OECD level have often been in favour of more animal testing, and overly cautious when it comes to accepting non-animal tests. We have been successful in influencing policy work in Sweden at political and government agency level, to move towards a more non-animal-test-friendly approach.
Why did you win the prize?
We were awarded the prize because we have been very successful in changing the official Swedish position to be more in favour of replacement alternatives in terms of regulations of chemicals. This shows that national lobbying is important to achieve progress at international levels, and also that even a small organisation such as the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments can make a difference through lobbying.
We have also been successful in achieving a national goal that we have been working towards for many years. On the very day of the Awards ceremony in 2013, we received the news that the Swedish cabinet was finally to propose the setting up of a Swedish knowledge centre for the 3R’s. The decision to set up a 3R’s centre has just been confirmed in the cabinet’s budget proposal for 2015.
What difference has winning the prize made to your contribution to the goal of the ‘three R’s' (Reduction, Refinement, Replacement)?
Winning the prize has strengthened our position as a lobbying organisation. Also, our work is entirely dependent on donations from the public. Having received the Lush award gives us credibility that we use to attract new private and corporate donors. This, in turn, will give us more resources for funding more research projects to replace more animal experiments in the future.
Could you outline how your work overlaps with current governmental policy?
We have ensured that relevant government bodies are aware of the ongoing development of 21st century testing methods. After several meetings with relevant government bodies, we are happy to report that 21st century testing methods have found their way into several government reports during the last 2-3 years, including the very important 'Strategy for Sweden's work for a non-toxic environment', from the Environmental Advisory Council. This forms the base for Sweden’s position in the negotiations to amend REACH in the coming years, and The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments is now an accepted stake holder in the process.
As a result of the more active role the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments has taken on as lobbyists, we are now, as of January 2013, represented at the Board of Agriculture's National Committee for the protection of animals used in experiments. I was also appointed by the government as an expert member of the newly formed Central Animal Research Ethical Review Board. The board consists of seven members, including the chair. The Central Board serves as the appeal board in respect to the local ethics committees that approve or reject applications to use animals in research. It will also be responsible for retrospective assessments of animal experiments, as required in the EU Directive (2010/63/EU) on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.
What did winning the Lush Prize mean to you?
Receiving the Lush award was a great pleasure and honour! It has also greatly helped us to continue our important and successful lobbying activities. Receiving the award has given us additional recognition, which has improved our impact and our chances of receiving funding from other sources.
How will you continue in your field, to fight against animal testing?
Sweden has had a new government in place since a few months back. We will continue to lobby to ensure that Sweden will move forward to become a leading force in replacing animal experiments in the EU. We will also continue to fund high quality research projects to replace animal use, as well as keeping up teaching and information efforts to promote non-animal methods in research and testing.