Research Involving Animals – Division of Biomedical Services

Myths and facts

two brown mice climbing in a tray 

There are many misconceptions about the use of animals for scientific research some regular questions may be:

Why are animals used in research?

There are three main reasons:

  • to advance scientific understanding
  • to develop solutions to medical problems
  • to protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.

Animals are used when there is a need to find out what happens in the whole living body, which is far more complex than the sum of its parts. It is very difficult, and in most cases simply not yet possible, to develop non-animal methods to replace the use of living animals.

Who uses animals in research?

Most people carrying out the research are doctors, scientists, vets or trained animal carers. Working in universities, hospitals, research institutes and pharmaceutical companies. Everyone who uses animals in research must have the necessary skills and training, and the research must be carried out in licensed premises.

Is animal research necessary?

We would be very unlikely to achieve many significant advances in scientific understanding or the prevention and treatment of diseases without animal research. We also need to use animals in safety testing to protect people, animals and the environment.

Has animal research contributed to medicine?

Almost every major medical advance has depended on the use of animals at some stage in its research, development or testing. Examples include antibiotics, anaesthetics, insulin for diabetes, organ transplants, hip replacements, etc.

Are animals too different from people for animal research to be valid?

Obviously, there are differences between animals and people. But under the skin, the biology of humans and other animals, particularly mammals, is remarkably similar. We have the same organs, controlled by the same nerves and hormones, as many other species. Where there are differences, researchers know about them, and such differences can actually help scientific understanding of a particular problem. Many animals suffer quite naturally from the same diseases as humans and can be used to study those diseases. In other cases, researchers can use an 'animal model' of a disease which is close to the human condition.

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