TOKYO-Tucked away in the back yard of most animal research institutes is a humble pagoda. Armed with a bunch of flowers, some food and water, scientists visit this memorial several times each year to join a Buddhist priest in offering comfort to the souls of their laboratory animals.
That ceremony represents the traditional Japanese attitude toward the welfare of animals. But the protests in Other countries against the use of laboratory animals have begun to raise consciousness and generate pressure to adopt more restrictive policies.
In 1973 the government passed Law No. 105 for "the protection and control of animals." Standards relating to the care and management of experimental animals were issued by the Prime Minister's office in March 1983 as Notification No. 6. But the law lacks a system of licensing and inspection to ensure its compliance, and few researchers are familiar with it.
That appears to be changing, however. In May the Laboratory Animal Society of Japan sponsored the first serious discussion of animal welfare among academics.
The Society, with a scientific membership of about 1,600, was founded as a volunteer group. In August it was sanctioned by the Ministry of Education as a corporate juridical organization, a status that entitles it to receive government funds, conduct inquiries into alleged abuse, and collect data on the use of laboratory animals throughout the country. Its presence promises to stimulate re search into alternatives as well as hasten efforts to put enforcement teeth into the current laws.
Tsubura is a member of the editorial board of KAGAKU in Tokyo.