Universiteit Leiden

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Dossier

Why experiments on animals?

We only conduct research using laboratory animals if it is absolutely essential and we have no other means of answering the research question. Read here about how we assess and account for this research.

We would ideally prefer not to use any laboratory animals at all. Animals provide essential information about the effectiveness, dosage and safety of medicines. Carrying out studies on animals makes it possible for us to ascertain that a drug can be used safely in humans at a later stage.

Our researchers also acquire a great deal of fundamental knowledge from animal experiments, for example on how the body functions and develops, and how diseases evolve. For ethical or practical reasons, this type of research cannot be carried out on human candidates. Examples of this kind of research are diseases that develop in humans over decades. If laboratory animals were not used, this kind of research would take longer.

Great responsibility

Research using animals is not something that is undertaken lightly: you are after all working with sentient beings. As researchers, we have great responsibility to treat these animals with care. Before deciding to conduct this kind of research, the following criteria are taken into consideration:

  • We only conduct research using laboratory animals if there is no alternative (i.e. without the use of laboratory animals) to answer the research question.
  • We  always consider in advance whether the importance of the research can justify the discomfort to the animal. Do the benefits of the study outweigh the expected discomfort to the animal? This ethical consideration is not only something 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.
  • We are only willing to undertake animal testing if sufficient account is taken of the three Rs of animal experimentation: replacement, reduction and refinement. Read more about the 3 Rs and alternatives to animal testing.

Every project involving animal testing must, of course, comply with the legal regulations, and must have a licence issued by the Centrale Commissie Dierproeven (CCD), the central authority for scientific procedures on animals. The CCD only issues a licence once it has been given a positive recommendation by an independent Animal Testing Committee (ATC). Leiden University frequently consults the DEC Leiden for this.

Our Animal Welfare Body (AWB Leiden) plays an important role: the AWB Leiden advises researchers on the design of any research they carry out using laboratory animals, the application of the 3 Rs and animal welfare. The AWB Leiden is formally the adviser to the DEC Leiden and monitors and reports annually on laboratory animals and experiments on animals.

The Executive Board of Leiden University has signed the Transparency Agreement on Animal Testing of the Animal Testing Information Foundation. Read more here about this agreement.

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