The use of animals in some forms of biomedical research remains essential to the discovery of the causes, diagnoses, and treatment of disease and suffering in humans and in animals.

There are several reasons why the use of animals is critical for biomedical research

•• Animals are biologically very similar to humans. In fact, mice share more than 98% DNA with us!

•• Animals are susceptible to many of the same health problems as humans – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.

•• With a shorter life cycle than humans, animal models can be studied throughout their whole life span and across several generations, a critical element in understanding how a disease processes and how it interacts with a whole, living biological system.

The ethics of animal experimentation

Nothing so far has been discovered that can be a substitute for the complex functions of a living, breathing, whole-organ system with pulmonary and circulatory structures like those in humans. Until such a discovery, animals must continue to play a critical role in helping researchers test, to a greater or lesser extent, potential new drugs and medical treatments for effectiveness and safety, and in identifying any undesired or dangerous side effects, such as infertility, birth defects, liver damage, toxicity, or cancer-causing potential.

Alternative methods

It is desirable for everyone to minimise both the number of laboratory animals and their individual suffering. In addition, animal experiments are expensive, time-consuming and complicated to conduct. If the purpose of the study can be achieved with some other, alternative method, the law prescribes that this alternative method is to be used. This could mean using cell cultures or samples of human tissue, for example.

The 3R concept – Replace, Refine, and Reduce – is a key:

  • Replace – Replace with animal-free experimentation methods where possible.

  • Refine – Refine the methods so as to minimise pain and other effects on the animals.

  • Reduce – Design the experiments so as to use as few animals as possible

The researchers are constantly working to develop new methods to replace animal experiments. (