Research with animals

From The Embassy of Good Science

Research with animals

What is this about?

The basic tenet of animal research is that studying the disease in animals, due to their likeness to humans, can help patients and health research in general. Therefore, animal research in such a context is considered beneficial to human beings and that is the reason why it’s considered to be ethically justified. This does not mean that anything is allowed, and avoiding unnecessary suffering should be a priority of any researcher who works with animals.

Why is this important?

Use of animals in research has a long tradition and has been the subject of various debates. From ancient Greece, to physiological research of the 17th century and drug testing today, animals were used in place of human models to gain insight and improve knowledge. It is considered that animal research has contributed to about 70% of Nobel prizes in Medicine or Physiology. Various vaccines, antibiotics, insulin and organ transplants have been developed with help of animal research. In development and testing of new drugs, animal testing is still obligatory. New methods, such as computer simulations, models and cell and tissue cultures, have been used to replace animal research, but in some areas there is still no replacement of equal value.

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

Starting in the 18th century, more and more arguments against research with animals have been voiced. Today, guidance for ethical use of animals in research is represented by so called 3R principles. 3R stands for replacement, reduction and refinement.[1][2] Replacement implies that animals as an experimental system should be replaced with a system from which the identical conclusion could be made if it is available. Reduction means that minimal numbers of animals should be used to prove something in experiments. Refinement means that if suffering of animals is present in the experiment it should be refined with pain killing medications and other support measures. In 2013, European Union formally applied EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.[3] This directive refers to 3R principles, and its ultimate goal is to replace animals in research altogether.

  1. Russell, W. M. S., Burch, R. L., & Hume, C. W. (1959).The principles of humane experimental technique (Vol. 238). London: Methuen.
  2. Kilkenny C, Browne WJ, Cuthill IC, Emerson M, Altman DG. Improving bioscience research reporting: the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting animal research. PLoS Biol. 2010;8(6):e1000412.
  3. Directive 2010/63/EU of The European Parliament and of The Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (2013).

Other information

Virtues & Values
Good Practices & Misconduct