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Kathrin Herrmann is Berlin’s new animal welfare officer – Insurance for Pets

Berlin has a new animal welfare officer. The veterinarian Kathrin Herrmann was introduced on Wednesday by the responsible Justice Senator Dirk Behrendt (Greens). The 44-year-old succeeds Diana Plange, who had held the office since 2017 and retired at the end of August.

« One of Berlin’s animal welfare policy focuses is to become the capital of animal-free research methods, » said the veterinarian. That will be the focus of their future work.

Berlin in first place in animal testing

Research on around 223,000 animals was carried out in Berlin laboratories in 2018, placing the capital in first place nationwide. In Germany, 2.1 million animals were used for medical experiments and 690,000 were killed in the process. According to Herrmann, there are three so-called “surplus animals” for every test animal, which are not “consumed” and are mostly simply killed.

Only 15 percent of the animals are used in applied research, 23 percent in the manufacture of drugs or vaccines. The largest part, 44 percent, is used in basic research, where animal experiments, unlike the testing of active ingredients, are not legally required. According to Herrmann, the experiments are mainly carried out on mice, rats and fish, but also on dogs and cats.

According to Herrmann, animal experiments are of little use

Herrmann does not deny that animal experiments have been useful here and there. « The transferability of the results is negligible. » On the one hand, the chronic diseases that dominate our society, such as Alzheimer’s or heart problems, but also cancer, are not easy to simulate in animals.

In addition, only a fraction of all substances tested on four-legged friends would also have an effect on humans or cause no side effects. Instead, there are much better alternatives, such as those being researched by Jens Kurreck at the Technical University of Berlin. The biochemist uses 3D printing to reproduce human organ models on which viruses and antidotes can be tested.

According to Herrmann, the fact that animal testing is still the method of choice has a lot to do with tradition. “It is an industry where there is really a lot of money behind it.” It is accordingly difficult to bring about changes there. According to estimates, around 1.92 billion euros were available nationwide for animal experiments in 2015, and only 6.4 million for alternative methods.

Alternatives to animal testing do not matter

The alternatives would hardly play a role in biology and medicine studies. « The supposed gold standard is still animal testing, even if it cannot be scientifically justified, » said Herrmann. A paradigm shift is needed, and this requires more pressure from politics and the public.

The red-red-green government coalition also wants to make Berlin the capital of alternatives to animal testing. “We’re not there yet,” admitted Senator Behrendt. Since 2016, the number of test animals has been reduced by 20 percent. “In terms of absolute numbers, that is not yet a great success, but it is a step in the right direction.” Research on primates is no longer done in Berlin.

Herrmann is assigned three employees for their work. Due to her previous work in practice and science, she was « excellently suited for the position of the state animal protection officer, » said her employer, Behrendt. The veterinarian with a doctorate in animal welfare and animal welfare ethics comes from near Ulm and came to Berlin to study. Until 2017 she worked for ten years at the State Office for Health and Social Affairs (LAGeSo), where she examined applications for animal experiments. Most recently, the vegan researched alternatives to animal experiments at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA).

Vet advocates the obligation to go for a walk

Herrmann’s job is also to advise citizens. She wants to focus on the connections between animal welfare, nutrition, pandemics and climate change. She supports the Gassigeh obligation planned by the federal government. “Nobody should buy a dog who can’t let him out.” She also wants to work for more exercise areas.

As further problems, she named reptile fairs such as those held monthly in Tegel, circus animals or the sale of puppies from the trunk. « We have enough pets. »

It is important to adopt instead of buy – especially not from so-called torture breeds, which usually result in dogs with physical ailments or behavioral problems. Because of her limited time, she herself has no pets.

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