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What is the RSPCA’s view of the use of animals in research?

Thousands of animals are used in research and teaching in Australia each year. It is essential that the sentience of these animals is recognised and that their welfare is considered a high priority. The RSPCA believes that the use of animals in research must be justified, does not cause pain or suffering, complies with legal requirements and best practice methods, and must be monitored adequately to ensure compliance.

The RSPCA is opposed to the use of animals for research where any of the following apply:

  • It causes or is likely to cause injury, pain, suffering and distress to the animals involved and where this cannot be prevented or adequately controlled.
  • It is not clearly justified.
  • It involves unnecessary repetition.
  • It uses more animals than required (in research this refers to the minimum number needed for statistical validity; in teaching this refers to the minimum number needed to achieve the teaching objective).
  • It is not scientifically robust.
  • Suitable alternatives to using animals are available.

The RSPCA is opposed to the use of animals in the testing of non-essential substances such as cosmetics, tobacco, alcohol and household products and believes that non-animal alternatives be developed as a matter of urgency to replace animals used for mandatory product safety testing.

The RSPCA believes that, wherever animals are being considered for use in research, the humane research principles of replacement (non-animal alternatives to be used), reduction (minimum number of animals used) and refinement (procedures to minimise pain and suffering are implemented), known as the Three Rs [1], must be adhered to. Overall, Australia needs to do more to replace the use of animals. Unlike other countries (particularly the USA, UK and Europe), Australia does not have a dedicated centre to develop, promote and support the implementation of non-animal alternatives.

In relation to the breeding of animals for research, the RSPCA believes that animals should only be sourced from licensed breeding or animal supply establishments which must adhere to mandatory welfare standards and that there are stringent controls to ensure that overbreeding does not occur. Furthermore, strategies must be implemented to rehome animals used for research so that they can live out their natural life span with a good quality of life.

Australia also lags behind in relation to publication of national animal use statistics when compared internationally. There is no mandatory requirement for the number, species, types of interventions carried out on and outcomes for animals to be reported, particularly those used in research by institutions, on a state/territory level or as national figures [2]. Releasing these statistics, as well as individual project summaries which describe how animals are used in projects and the results, would help provide greater transparency and accountability to the general community.

The RSPCA also supports the development and regulation of mandatory species-specific animal welfare standards for the housing, care, breeding, supply and transport of animals used for research and teaching. The RSPCA opposes the use of non-human primates for research as not all their physical and psychological needs can be met.


[1] Russell WMS, Burch RL (1959) The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. (Originally: Methuen & Co. Ltd), London.

[2] Timoshenko A, Marston H, Lidbury BA (2016) Australian regulation of animal use in science and education: A critical appraisal. Institute for Laboratory Animal Research 57(3):324-332.

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Updated on August 16, 2021
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