People often disagree on whether animal experiments 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 main goal.
Areas of animal use
Laboratory animals are used in several different settings, including:
- Medicine - developing and testing medicines and vaccines for humans or animals
- Research - studying how animal and human bodies function
- Safety testing - assessing the safety of chemicals, such as pesticides, for their possible effects on human health or the environment.
Lab animals in the UK
It's 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 licensed 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 licensed.
Our view on lab animals
We believe that the necessity and justification for using animals should always be critically reviewed and that everything possible must be done to speed up the development of humane alternatives. Until then, every possible step should be taken to reduce the numbers of animals used, and to significantly reduce their suffering and improve their welfare.
For updates on our work to help lab animals, general news and views relating to animal experiments follow us on Twitter: @RSPCA_LabAnimal