Use of animals in medical research

The use of animals in medical research is a contentious issue, dividing opinion on moral and ethical grounds. The patient voice needs to be at the heart of this debate as it is the patient community which benefits from the outcome of this method of research.

For many genetic and rare conditions, there are no treatments or cures currently available. This is why, for those who live with these types of conditions, any and all medical advances are invaluable. Biomedical research is required to develop innovative treatments for the community that Genetic Alliance UK represents. Currently, animal research is an essential tool necessary to perform biomedical research.

Genetic Alliance UK supports the ethical use of animals in medical research undertaken in properly regulated research centres with comprehensive implementation of the three Rs.

What is the law on the use of animals in medical research?

UK law requires that any new medicine must be tested on animals. Testing is regulated in the UK (Animals Scientific Protections Act of 1986) and European Law (Directive 2010/63/EU).

What are the three Rs?

  • Replacement: Using methods which avoid or replace the use of animals where realistically possible
  • Reduction: methods which minimise the number of animals used per experiment
  • Refinement: methods which minimise suffering and improve animal welfare

What is the value of the three Rs

We feel strongly that further progress needs to be made in ensuring that there is a reduction in the number of animals used per experiment when it is possible to do so without harming the meaningfulness of research. We also argue that researchers should always strive to refine the way animals are treated to minimise their suffering, and we welcome attempts to use innovative ways of doing this.

During a project looking at patient attitudes to the use of animals in research, one participant told us:

“I have benefited so much from research that has been carried out on animals … knowing that animal research reaps huge benefits, it is good to realise that this research is conducted in the best way possible”
Emily Owen, Patient