We want to see all experiments that cause animals to suffer replaced with humane alternatives.
What alternatives are there?
Some useful approaches are:
- the use of isolated cells and tissues
- using computers to model biological processes and to predict the effects of chemicals and drugs
- designing ways of doing experiments safely in human volunteers
- using simple organisms, such as bacteria, to study basic biological processes
- promising new technologies, such as robotics and molecular techniques, are also being explored as potential alternatives to animals.
One alternative is not to do the experiment! We encourage greater consideration of whether animal use could be avoided through more critical ethical review.
Why is it difficult to replace animals?
There are scientific obstacles to overcome
Animals are used in science for many different purposes, ranging from testing whether the ingredients of a bathroom cleaner may cause skin irritation to finding out how the brain functions. The potential for replacing animals depends on the nature and aim of each experiment.
Alternative methods have certain limitations. For example, human volunteers cannot be used in potentially harmful experiments, and isolated cells and tissues cannot give a complete picture of what happens in a complicated living system.
For each type of experiment, a better understanding of the scientific barriers to replacement and how to overcome these is needed. Research can then be directed at overcoming the barriers.
Change is difficult
People involved in science often have preferred methods of working on scientific problems. They may have been trained to use animals and may have used them for many years. Alternatively, their work may depend on the results of animal tests (for example if they are responsible for assessing the safety of chemicals). Changing their approach requires persuasion, and increased communication, training and education in the use of alternatives.
More research and development is needed
Developing alternative methods, and showing that they work, takes time and resources. Much more investment in this work is needed.
Legal requirements need changing
Many laws and regulations on the safety of products (from industrial chemicals to medicines) require information from animal tests. Getting these tests replaced takes a long time, especially when many different countries are involved worldwide.
What we are doing
- Working closely with Eurogroup for Animals to reduce animal testing requirements in European laws, and to ensure more effort is put into developing alternatives - which are then legally accepted.
- Liaising with a number of organisations to help promote the development and acceptance of new replacement methods, for example:
- European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA)
- National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)
- Providing funding to the International Network for Humane Education (InterNICHE) for their work on identifying and promoting the use of alternatives to animals in education.
- Participating in the World Congresses on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences.
- To promote more careful and thorough consideration of replacement, we have produced a resource for teachers, lecturers or trainers, and as a source of information for lay members of animal welfare and ethical review bodies, and others with an interest in the subject: The 'R' of Replacement - the potential for implementing alternatives to the use of animals in research and testing (2012) (PDF 3.37 MB)
Related internet links
- Altweb - Alternatives to Animal Testing Website
- Dr Hadwen Trust - Replacing Animals in Medical Research
- FRAME - Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments