Use of animals in research: A science - society controversy? The European perspective

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L. F. M. van Zutphen
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The use of animals for research and testing purposes has decreased substantially during the last two decades but is now increasing again, mainly because of the increased use of transgenic animal models. Presently, 10-12 millions of vertebrate animals are used per year within EU Member States. Scientists who are using animals in research are frequently criticised by animal protection groups and blamed that they do not respect the integrity of an animal's life. The European Science Foundation (ESF) is recognising that legislation cannot be the only answer to those worries in society and that it is essential to take a stand and to clearly explain what the Foundation's position with regard to the use of animals is. In a recently published position paper, ESF has discussed its views and has adopted guidelines for the use of animals in research. The document explicitly states that laboratory animals have an intrinsic value, which must be respected. The consequences of recognising the intrinsic value have been elaborated in the position paper and include, among others, strong endorsement of the replacement, reduction, refinement principles. It is stated that, prior to the performance of an animal experiment, the protocol should be subjected to independent expert review including the weighing of the likely benefit versus the likely animal suffering. Also, the development and organisation of accredited courses on laboratory animal science, including information on animal alternatives, welfare and ethics are encouraged. The guidelines, as formulated in the position paper, can be seen as reinforcement of developments that have already been started in several countries, but have not always received full support from the scientific community. With this document, the association of 70 leading national science organisations in Europe has taken a position that, in several aspects, exceeds current European legislative regulations. For bridging the science - society controversy, it is essential to continue this initiative by promoting the implementation of the guidelines at all levels of the scientific community. This requires commitment and scientific leadership.

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How to Cite
van Zutphen, L. F. M. (2002) “Use of animals in research: A science - society controversy? The European perspective”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 19(3), pp. 140–144. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2024).