Why we use animals

Animals are used to gain understanding of some cell structures and physiological and pathological processes. Although their physiology does not identically mimic the human body, they act as models for studying human disease, and are used to develop new treatments for diseases.

Much basic research – research on physiological, pathological and therapeutic processes rather than on people – also requires the use of animals in experiments. Such research has provided and continues to provide the essential foundation for improvements in medical and veterinary knowledge, education and practice. Many of the developments achieved through the use of animals have also benefited farm, domestic and wild animals, helping them to live longer and healthier lives.

While alternative techniques cannot always reproduce the complexity of a living creature, we only fund the use of animals when there is no alternative research technique and where the expected benefits of the research outweigh the effects.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) will only fund research using animals where:

  • no viable non-animal alternatives exist
  • the research is fully compliant with current Home Office legislation
  • the research is approved by a local ethics committee
  • the research has been successfully independently peer-reviewed
  • the researchers have properly considered all the replacement, refinement or reduction of the animals in the experiment
  • the researchers have demonstrated that they are using the correct animal model and the statistically correct number of animals to make sure that the research is of the highest quality possible.

Animals are certainly not a perfect model for humans, and scientists are working to find alternatives. There have been many advances in this area and replacements for animal models are being developed all the time. Most researchers would far prefer not to use animals in their work but most appreciate the necessity of doing so. MRC is proud of the developments that have come about through using animals in research we have funded.

Last updated: 31 March 2022

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