The Sourches Experimental Farm has been implicated in an investigation broadcast by L214. The Avril Group deplores the manipulation of images filmed for the purposes of sensationalism. Filming took place in the context of a probable intrusion into a center that is nevertheless open regularly to the public; during the past years, the farm has welcomed many thousands of visitors (scientists, journalists, students, livestock farmers, politicians, NGOs, etc.).
This new and incriminating investigation focuses on a procedure called “fistulation”, which has been used for many years in research on animals.
At the Sourches Experimental Farm, this procedure is currently being used on six cows in the context of a research study designed to develop alternative practices.
During this procedure, a 15-cm long cannula, with a valve at one end, is inserted through the animal’s side so that a qualified agent can gain access to one of the cow’s four stomachs, called the rumen. This procedure is used throughout the world, for research purposes only. It is always very closely monitored by a veterinarian, and at present offers the only option to study the digestion of vegetable proteins. This work is essential to achieving advances in livestock management which in particular will improve the digestive health of millions of animals, reduce the use of antibiotics, and lower the nitrate and methane emissions linked to livestock farming.
In France, a strict regulatory framework surrounds this procedure, which has to be authorized by the Ministry for Research. At the Sourches Experimental Farm, it is also the subject of an ethical approval granted by the Animal Experimental Ethics Committee for the Loire Region, which is made up of veterinarians, experts in animal research and representatives from civil society.
Alongside the regulatory framework, and because this is an invasive procedure, the Sourches Experimental Farm has for several years complied voluntarily with guidelines driven by the “3 R” principle:
- Replace – As far as possible, in vivo studies are replaced by alternative methods (computer models or in vitro procedures). For example, the Sourches Experimental Farm is the leader in France for having developed a technique that uses an artificial rumen.
- Reduce – Studies in animals are still necessary (notably to produce reference data and thus help with the development of alternative methods). The Farm works on a minimum of animals by optimizing its livestock housing and statistical analysis, and aims to halve the number of cows concerned by this procedure within the next ten years.
- Refine – This aims to implement methods that will limit any pain, anxiety or stress experienced by the animals during a study. This is notably achieved by putting them out to grazing for two months each year.
The Sourches Experimental Farm is committed to publicizing and applying these “3 R” principles relative to all its research activities in the livestock sector, notably by driving the development of in vitro studies and ensuring the optimum predictive use of historical and livestock data. The objective is that the great majority of tests on animals will be performed using alternative methods by 2025.