Animal Humane Society position on animals used for biomedical research, testing and education

Biomedical research & testing

We support the development of alternatives to the use of animals in biomedical research and testing. We advocate and encourage the eventual end to the use of animals in research and testing that cause harm to animals, realizing that some research (e.g. drug safety testing for human use) may not be possible without the use of animals. In the interim, until research alternatives are developed and used, and as long as laboratories are used, we feel that strict accountability is essential in research procedures, as well as in the process of obtaining, treating, and maintaining all species of laboratory animals. During this research, there should always be a written experimental protocol that is reviewed by a licensed veterinarian and that includes appropriate humane husbandry and medical care along with a focus on the elimination of pain and relief of stress and suffering of the animals.

We oppose the release of animals, living or deceased, from public or private animal shelters (including animal control agencies) to biomedical research or other related facilities that use animals for research or testing. In addition, we oppose any efforts, administrative or legislative that would mandate this practice.

We believe animal welfare organizations can play an important role in improving animal health and welfare by partnering with established and reputable entities that engage in responsible animal health study and research. This can be achieved by providing and / or supporting the gathering of samples, such as tissue and blood, obtained through normal, routinely performed, veterinary exam procedures leading to additional knowledge for the purpose of improving animal health and welfare.

We join other national and local animal welfare organizations in the belief that the three R’s (Reduction, Refinement and Replacement) are critical and should be applied to the use of animals in biomedical research.* At the same time, we recognize a fourth R of “Responsibility to Society” and that animal welfare must be balanced with human welfare.

Education

We believe students of all ages should be provided an education that instills a respect for animals and emphasizes the value of animals as living, sentient creatures who share our world. Educating school children about the wonders of biology is one way to instill an appreciation on the intrinsic value of animals.

In elementary and secondary education we do not support curricula that includes the use of animals for dissection or other activities that may cause harm. Alternatives exist that support education at this level and those should be used.

Where appropriate, alternatives to the use of animals in the classroom, such as computer modeling, should be considered at the undergraduate level and beyond. While there are some alternatives to achieve educational objectives, we believe that there is a place for ethically sourced cadavers.

With appropriate supervision, we support veterinary students working with animals (such as shelter animals) that will benefit from the procedures for practical experience in examinations and surgeries. While we understand and recognize the value of the use of animals for professional education in veterinary, medical and biological careers, we continue to encourage and support alternative methods to the use of animals for dissection or laboratory study. In professional education any use of animals should follow the Three R’s (reduction, refinement or replacement of animal use).

 

*The principles of the Three Rs – Replacement, Refinement and Reduction are credited to Russell and Burch’s 1959 report “The Principles of Humane Experimental Techniques” and are widely accepted internationally as criteria for humane animal use in research and testing.

  • Reduction - experiments should be designed in such a manner that the least number of the most suitable species are used.
  • Refinement - research animals need to be maintained in a clean environment in which they are humanely cared for before, during and after the procedures.
  • Replacement - animal-based research methods should be replaced when possible with alternative methods, such as mathematical or computer modeling, molecular modeling, organ perfusion, or other methods that allow the attainment of the objectives without having to use animals.