Universiteit Leiden

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Responsible research with animals

Animal experiments are not undertaken lightly; we are working with sentient beings. As scientists, we have great responsibility to handle laboratory animals with care. Read here how we consider and justify this.

Considerations prior to animal experiments

A scientist, prior to conducting an animal experiment, takes the following considerations:

  • Is there an alternative method to answer the research question?
  • Does the importance of the research outweigh the expected discomfort to the animal(s)? This ethical consideration is not only something that we ourselves make; the independent animal ethics committee (DEC in Dutch) also makes an assessment. The committee assesses all planned project applications including animal experiments.
  • How can I best take into account the 3Rs in animal experiments: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement? Read more about this under the section Alternatives to animal experiments.

Research involving laboratory animals must meet stringent conditions

Furthermore, all research involving laboratory animals must adhere to strict conditions:

  • The researcher must be authorised to conduct animal experiments according to Article 9 of the Experiment on Animals Act.
  • Every project involving animal experiments must obtain a license issued by the Centrale Commissie Dierproeven (CCD), the central authority for scientific procedures on animals. The CCD grants a license only after receiving a positive recommendation from an independent Animal Experiment Committee ('Dierenexperimentencommissie' or DEC in Dutch). Leiden University regularly consults the DEC Leiden for this purpose.

Our Animal Welfare Body (AWB Leiden) plays a crucial role. AWB Leiden advises researchers on the design of any research involving laboratory animals, emphasising on the application of the 3Rs and ensuring animal welfare. Formally serving as an advisor to DEC Leiden, AWB Leiden monitors and submits annual reports on laboratory animals and experiments involving animals.

Supervision and oversight of animal experiments

There is both internal and external oversight of the execution of animal experiments. The University has an internal supervisor, also the head of the AWB Leiden, who oversees the well-being and care of animals and ensures the proper execution of animal experiments. Additionally, inspectors from the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) visit Leiden University several times per year to verify compliance with all legal regulations and requirements.

An essential condition for responsible research involving laboratory animals is transparency. The Executive Board of Leiden University has signed the Transparency Agreement on Animal Experiments of the Animal Experiments Information Foundation. Read more here about this agreement.

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