McGill is not only a top-tier undergraduate institution, it’s also one of Canada’s largest research institutions. A significant part of the research efforts at McGill involves research on animal subjects. According to the McGill Daily (Of Mice and Men, April 2013), in 2011 McGill researchers used 69,894 test animals. These animals came from an incredibly diverse set of families, genera, and species, including C. elegans, ants, mice, and songbirds, and monkeys.
Some people see a number like “69,894” and imagine all the scientific projects and progress that those animals may have supported. Others see that number and imagine the suffering of nearly 70 thousand animals. This latter group often calls for an elimination of animal research. However, reducing the number of animal facilities has recently been taken up by university administrators facing budget cuts and struggling for external funding. Citing this “challenging” funding environment for research in the United States, Harvard Medical School’s administration has announced that it will not apply to renew the grants that keep their core primate research facility (the New England Primate Research Center) open and running. Over the next two years, they will “wind down” operations at the centre in, and coordinate with the US’ National Institues of Health to transfer the animals currently housed at the centre.
Thankfully, there are currently no signs that McGill’s animal research facilities are in any danger of entirely losing funding, despite the deep budget cuts our university faces. (For more information about the state of animal research at McGill, check out Animal research: a want or a need?, McGill Daily, February 13).