Using animals in experiments is a controversial issue. People often hold very strong opinions and hotly debate the rights and wrongs of this. There is disagreement over whether experiments on animals are necessary, useful or justified, and to what extent non-animal alternatives are available.
We believe that every area of animal use should be judged individually and that replacing the use of animals with humane alternatives must be the principal goal.
Areas of animal use
Experiments on animals are carried out for many different purposes:
- developing and testing medicines and vaccines for humans and other animals
- studying how animals’ and humans’ bodies function
- assessing the safety of chemicals, such as pesticides, for their possible effects on human health or the environment.
What we think
There is no doubt that animals can experience pain and/or distress in experiments and that this can be severe. In addition, suffering may be caused by the way animals are bred, transported, housed and handled. This makes animal use a matter of serious concern.
We want to see all experiments that cause animals to suffer replaced with humane alternatives. Sadly, for many reasons, this will not happen in the immediate future.
We take a constructive, practical approach, liaising with people involved in animal use in government, industry and science to ensure that:
- the necessity and justification for using animals is always critically reviewed
- everything possible is done to speed up the development of humane alternatives
- every possible step is taken to reduce the numbers of animals used, and to significantly reduce their suffering and improve their welfare.
- It is estimated that more than 100 million animals are used in experiments each year across the world. Attitudes to animals, and the legislation in place regarding their use and welfare, vary widely between countries.
- In the UK, the use of animals in experiments is regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 - which is administered by the Animals in Science Regulation Unit of the Home Office. Under this law, all breeding and use of animals has to be carried out in licenced premises, the research itself has to be set out in a project licence application which is submitted to the Home Office for authorisation, and the people carrying out the research also have to be licenced.
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For updates on our work to help lab animals, along with general news and views relating to animal experiments, follow us: @RSPCA_LabAnimal