RSPCA Policy D1 Animals in research

1.1RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of animals in experiments or procedures that cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. This includes aspects such as fear, hunger, boredom, social isolation, and other forms of distress. Research animals must be treated with respect and not merely as objects or scientific tools.
1.2All efforts must be undertaken to minimise pain and suffering in experimental animals. This includes appropriate housing, handling and the appropriate use of anaesthesia and analgesia.

RSPCA Australia strongly supports the humane research principles of replacement, reduction and refinement (known as the Three Rs):

  • Replacement of the use of animals with alternative techniques, such as cell, tissue and organ cultures, human volunteers, video and computer aids and modelling.
  • Reduction in the numbers of animals used, such as through improved experimental design including the use of appropriate statistical methods, detailed literature reviews and increased sharing of research data.
  • Refinement of procedures to improve the welfare of animals used in research, such as through the use of analgesics, avoiding significant adverse effects, and enhancement of housing conditions.
1.4Where the number of animals used in research is reduced, this must not be achieved by compromising the welfare of individual research animals or result in invalid results.
1.5RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of animals in experiments that involve unnecessary repetition, scientifically trivial ends, or techniques to which satisfactory alternatives not using live animals have already been developed.
1.6The results of all research involving animals should be made available to the wider scientific community through published journal articles, conference proceedings or complete data sets.
1.7.1RSPCA Australia advocates that all institutions where experiments are carried out must be registered under state government legislation. Individuals within the institution must be licensed to carry out experiments on animals and experienced in the techniques required for the proposed experiments.
1.7.2All research and teaching using live animals must be carried out in accordance with the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes which requires proposals to be assessed and endorsed by an animal ethics committee. RSPCA Australia strongly supports the use of animal ethics committees with both scientific and independent members, to assess research proposals and monitor the care and use of animals used for research and teaching.
1.7.3There must be freedom of access to the Minister responsible for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (or its equivalent) and RSPCA inspectors for regular inspection of breeding establishments and research institutions’ facilities.
1.7.4RSPCA Australia advocates that any individual or institution licensed and registered to conduct experiments on animals and who fails to comply with the requirements of the regulations should automatically have their licence and/or registration cancelled.
1.8Housing and husbandry
1.8.1RSPCA Australia requires that where animals are kept for use in research, the housing, husbandry, care and treatment of the animals is of a high standard and does not compromise the welfare of those animals.
1.8.2Housing conditions for research animals should be enhanced through the provision of appropriate environmental enrichment and sufficient quantity and quality of space to meet the animals’ physiological, behavioural and social needs.
1.8.3All people involved in the care, handling or scientific use of live animals must be competent in the tasks they are responsible for, aware of the basic needs of the species involved, and able to recognize signs of pain, distress or illness in those species.
1.8.4RSPCA Australia supports the development and regulation of minimum standards and guidelines for the housing and husbandry of animals used for research purposes.
1.9Breeding and supply
1.9.1RSPCA Australia does not support the use in laboratories of wild-caught animals where it is possible to use purpose-bred animals instead. Animals should be sourced from registered breeding establishments wherever possible.
1.9.2RSPCA Australia is concerned that laboratory animals are sometimes bred in excess, in order to meet fluctuating demands for particular characteristics, leading to unnecessary wastage of animals’ lives. Researchers should aim to improve their forward planning and communication with breeders. Where possible, excess animals should be reassigned to other researchers.

(adopted 01/08/08)

Updated on January 15, 2019
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