Replacing animals

We want to see all experiments that cause animal suffering replaced with humane alternatives. Here's more on the other options available and what we're doing to help lab animals.

Alternatives to animal experiments

Here are some of the humane alternatives to using animals in experiments.

  • The use of isolated cells and tissues instead of live animals.
  • Using computers and mathematics to model biological processes and predict the effects of chemicals and drugs.
  • Human volunteers - designing ways of doing experiments safely in human volunteers.
  • Using simple organisms, such as bacteria, to study basic biological processes.
  • Exploring new advanced technologies such as robotics, molecular techniques, tissue engineering and 'organs-on-microchips.'
  • Not doing the experiment at all - we encourage greater consideration of whether animal use could be avoided through more critical ethical review.

Why is it difficult to replace animals?

science image of cells and tissues © RSPCAThe potential for replacing animals depends on the nature and aim of each experiment. Human volunteers can't be used in potentially harmful experiments, and isolated cells and tissues may not be able to give a complete picture of what happens in a complicated living system.

A better understanding of the scientific barriers to animal replacement is needed so that research can be directed at overcoming these. Firstly, scientists often have preferred ways of working. Changing their approach requires persuasion, increased communication and training in the use of alternatives.

Developing alternative methods, and showing that they work, also takes time and resources. What's more, many laws and regulations on product safety (from industrial chemicals to medicines) require information from animal tests. Getting these tests replaced takes time, especially when many different countries are involved.

What we're doing to help lab animals

We're working closely with Eurogroup for Animals to reduce animal testing requirements in European laws, and to ensure more effort is put into developing legally accepted alternatives.

We're also providing funding to InterNICHE for their work on identifying and promoting the use of alternatives to animals in education, and participating in the World Congresses on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences. 

Finally, we promote consideration of animal replacement through our resources, such as our report on the potential for implementing alternatives to the use of animals in research and testing.

Follow these links to find out more about replacing animals in testing and research:

  • Altweb - Alternatives to Animal Testing Website
  • Animal Free Research UK - Replacing Animals in Medical Research
  • FRAME - Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments
  • NC3Rs - National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research

You may also like to have a read of our blog post on what we're doing to help wild animals used in vaccine tests.

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