The Mars Petcare Purpose
Part of Mars, Incorporated, a family-owned business with more than a century of history making diverse products and offering services for people and the pets people love, the 85,000 Associates in Mars Petcare are dedicated to one purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. In the day-to-day development of our pet care products and services we do not undertake, support or sponsor studies that harm animals.
At this time, the use of animals in fundamental research to understand pets’ needs, and in the development of scientifically sound products and services for pets, is an indispensable part of our business, both for scientific and legal reasons. This means we carry out scientific research to high welfare and ethical standards with dogs, cats and fish to further our understanding of their biology and behavior, and use the knowledge we gain to improve their lives through high quality products and services.
Clinical studies are an important component of increasing medical knowledge, advancing veterinary practice, and improving animal health. Within our Veterinary Health division we routinely conduct clinical studies involving client-owned pets.
It has long been recognized that standards for clinical studies involving owned animals are governed by more personal and complex criteria than those of laboratory animals. The best interest of the pet, desires of the pet’s owners, and the mutually agreed upon course of treatment between the owner and veterinarian — these set the standard of care for both routine veterinary treatment and clinical studies.
Mars Petcare has incorporated the recommendations of the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, UK), and AAALAC International (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International) into the stringent review of clinical studies involving pets, prior to our approval or involvement. Our goal is to lead the industry in meeting and exceeding the guidelines established for owned animal clinical studies.
On very rare occasions, we need to introduce a new raw material that has not been used in foods before. Legal and regulatory requirements compel us to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of this new raw material. In these isolated instances we may sponsor a limited number of studies involving rats, mice, fish and other aquatic species.
Animal Welfare at Mars
Mars is committed to using animals appropriately and responsibly, and complies with international, regional and national laws and regulations, as well as meeting or exceeding industry standards. All Associates within Mars Petcare, and all external contractors who perform animal research for us, are required to obey these laws at all times and to conduct their research by applying high standards of welfare and respect for the animals in their care.
At Mars we’re proud of our mechanisms to ensure high standards of animal care. In 2007, we established the Mars Research Review Board, an international body of internal and external experts, to guarantee that our research, and the research of our partners, complies with this policy and that we maintain the highest ethical standards when conducting studies involving animals.
The Mars Research Review Board also ensures that we only support university educational initiatives that are fully in line with our policy.
To appropriately and responsibly respond to a health and safety emergency, the Mars Research Review Board may approve exceptions to this policy.
We apply the widely accepted “3R’s” principle of replacement, reduction and refinement to the design of all our animal studies. This means that we look to replace animal studies with non-animal approaches that meet regulatory requirements wherever possible, ensure we only use the minimum number of animals necessary to provide scientifically valid results, and constantly review the care provided and the methods used to conduct our studies.
When carrying out collaborative research with external groups, Mars Petcare stipulates animal welfare provisions in their contractual agreements. We will only carry out collaborative research with institutions that comply with our animal welfare and ethics standards. All projects funded wholly or partly by Mars Petcare research funding awards must comply with Mars Petcare ethics, and the research must not inflict suffering or result in the euthanasia of the animals involved. All clinical studies must have informed owner consent. Mars Petcare has a formal auditing process in place for contractors and animal breeders.
Scientific progress in recent years has helped shed light on the interplay between human genetics and environmental and lifestyle factors. This knowledge enables researchers to better understand complex diseases. In order to gain such understanding about pets, researchers need to analyse large quantities of pet data and biological specimens. At Mars Petcare, we have established a repository known as the WALTHAM Biobank, where biological materials from pets (such as blood collected as part of routine veterinary care and faeces collected at home) and the data associated with those materials are collected, stored, processed and distributed.
The WALTHAM Biobank represents an opportunity to analyse large quantities of biological materials and data from pets. It is expected that these will help researchers acquire a better understanding of common complex diseases in dogs and cats, and eventually to develop targeted therapies to treat and possibly even cure such diseases. In this evolving field, it is important that pet owners asked to contribute their pets’ specimens and their potentially sensitive personal information have sufficient clarity on what this means for them.
At Mars Petcare we are committed to providing information to people who are considering consenting to allow specimens from their pet(s) to be part of the biobank, and other interested persons, with information on any relevant aspect of our work with pets’ biological materials.
The WALTHAM Biobank, like all WALTHAM research projects, has been reviewed by an independent group of international veterinarians and scientists and approved by the WALTHAM Ethics Committee. The pets we invite to take part are identified from their veterinary medical records. The information will only be used if the pet’s owner gives written consent.
All personal information is held by WALTHAM Biobank confidentially with careful controls, and no identifiable information about participants is available to anyone outside of the WALTHAM Biobank. All data is held or used in accordance with data protection legislation.
The WALTHAM Biobank is an essential tool in exploring aspects of pet diseases that might eventually lead to new or better diagnoses or treatments, enabling us to deliver our Purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS