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Nuffield Council: Ethics of research involving animals

18 December 2003

The Royal Society has responded to Nuffield Council on Bioethics consultation on the ethics of research involving animals. The Royal Society takes an active role in policy discussions on the use of animals in research, and welcomed the invitation to engage in a discussion on the ethical issues raised by research involving animals.

Along with the majority of the scientific community and the wider public, the Royal Society considers that the benefits from the use of animals in research to justify research that has led to them. Both humans and animals have benefited greatly from the research involving animals, with many medical achievements in the past century reliant on the use of animals in some way.

The Royal Society is fully supportive of UK legislation to enable the continued development of scientific and medical advances through the use of animals in research, but calls for help to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and the delays that result in licensing scientific researchers to use animals. The Society supports the principle of the 3Rs in experimental design, which requires that the number of animals used in an experiment must be kept to the minimum necessary to give a statistically valid result. Using too few animals can be as wasteful as using too many, but numbers can be kept down through good experimental design.

The response also highlights that there is a strong scientific case for the use of genetically modified animals in order to understand human and animal disease, dependent on all potential welfare concerns being addressed.