Why conduct animal experiments?
Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht perform both veterinary and medical/biological research. Beyond animal testing, experiments involving cell and tissue cultivation technology, computer simulations and human volunteers are also conducted. Animal experimentation is a key tool in advancing our understanding of human and animal bodily functions and contributes significantly to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases. Laboratory animals are also used to a very limited extent when teaching students and when training medical specialists, researchers and bio-engineers.
Animal experiments are only conducted under certain conditions:
- There must be no other way of achieving the research or pedagogical objectives.
- The importance of the test for society as a whole must be evident.
- The specialist Animal Experiments Committee (Dierexperimentencommissie (DEC)) must have determined that the importance of the animal test balances out the use of and resulting distress experienced by the laboratory animals.
Leading role in developing alternatives
When conducted, animal tests are conducted responsibly, meaning that every attempt is made to replace, reduce and refine (i.e. the 3 R’s).
Utrecht University plays a leading role in the development of alternatives to animal experiments in the Netherlands. For instance, Utrecht University was the first in the Netherlands to appoint a chair in ‘Laboratory Animal Science’ back in 1983. Moreover, it established the first chair in ‘Alternatives to Laboratory Animal Tests’ in 2000 and the chair in ‘Alternatives to Laboratory Animal Tests in Toxicological Risk Assessment’ in 2008. All three chairs were placed under the purview of Utrecht University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
Current and future policy on laboratory animals at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht aims to promote the development, application and acceptance of methods to replace, reduce or refine the use of laboratory animals. Great strides in replacement, reduction and refinement have been made at Utrecht University in recent years: while an increasing number of tests can be conducted involving fewer laboratory animals or none at all, it is as yet not possible to gather all necessary data using alternative methods. Information on these activities and the results achieved in relation to alternatives are actively disseminated for use on a broad basis in biomedical research. Despite advances in the 3 R’s, it is unrealistic to believe that biomedical research will completely obviate the need for laboratory animals in the short term.