The Concordat was developed for UK organisations because of varied standards of welfare, security, policy and governance across the world, and also so that multinationals are not obliged to apply their UK led policies worldwide.
Since the start of the Concordat overseas organisations have asked to become signatories and for support in establishing similar initiatives elsewhere.
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) has recently worked with Spain to develop a transparency agreement based on the UK Concordat, but this agreement is not like the Concordat in terms of governance structure or underpinning social research. EARA are leading support for Openness in Europe, but their resource is limited.
There are two potential models for international groups to be part of the Concordat.
- They become ‘associates’ of the Concordat, and sign up to the principles with their logo, develop a website statement and receive support with transparency from UAR on a cost-recovery basis – the light touch approach.
- We franchise the Concordat and support other counties to set up their own, using in country research with public and welfare groups, and their own governance structures.
Either of these approaches would need to be cost neutral. For model 2 to work considerable investment would be needed from the Country committing to the Concordat.
It is better to export our (successful) model than import signatories.
One question – how do we oversee acceptable animal welfare standards overseas? Can we expect that a minimum standard of welfare is met if we are to franchise?
This is similar to difficulties many organisations have with overseas exchange programmes. There will always be examples of ethics which don’t meet expectations of the UK. Does this make them wrong, or unacceptable for collaboration? Can we enforce our view of animal welfare or should we expect that they meet their own standards?
Following model 2, ethics, animal welfare and public concerns should be covered locally, in country by the social research and engagement of animal welfare and abolitionist groups. Concordat should be based locally in own culture and definition of acceptability.
It is comparable to issues faced by differing publication standards in different countries. Sometimes we need to draw a line, but we also need to be flexible and not try to impose our view.
We can look to promote (our view of) good practice through leadership and influence. Hopefully those organisations that take the openness principles (and therefore animal welfare) on board will attract more funding and more will join.
Do the other Countries that are showing interest really need a Concordat, or would some other intervention work better? The 18 months of work with the media, government and RSPCA is invisible, but took enormous resource. This might not be the best investment or way forward everywhere. What is the problem they are looking to solve by having an agreement to be more open? Do their working practices lend themselves to the UK model or something else?
We could put out a call, inviting interested international groups to for a workshop, to look at what is involved in developing a Concordat agreement, and whether they would be interested in working with UAR to establish one. The best place for this might be FELASA in 2019.
On collaborations generally:
UAR recommends a collaborations policy for signatory institutions.
A policy could also be used with spin out companies to make them aware of expectations around the Concordat.
The text of the Concordat says that two organisations working together should be as open as they can be.
A real world example was given of a University whose research programme was funded by a small medical charity. When the work was press released the University talked about the animal model and the charity objected. The university pushed back showing that the Concordat committed them to a policy of greater openness and the animal models were included in the press release. (The charity received no complaints).
For CROs and other organisations there issues around identification of (non-sector) suppliers or identification of clients and projects. This is understood, and the Concordat was developed to be flexible about this.