Research involving animals
Almost every major breakthrough in human and veterinary medicine has depended on the use of animals in the research, development or testing of new therapies.
At this time, research involving animals remains an essential tool to increase our understanding of how human and animal bodies work, how diseases affect them, and how diseases can be prevented or treated.
On this page
Wellcome supports the use of animals in research if the potential health benefits are compelling, appropriate welfare standards are met and where there are no alternatives.
We strongly support developing a more open dialogue between the research community and the public on:
- how and why animals are involved in research, and the limitations of this
- how the research is regulated in the UK
- how the 3Rs are implemented and furthered, and care and welfare is ensured.
Read our position:
- for grantholders on the use of animals in biomedical research
- on using non-human primates in research.
See our analysis of Wellcome grants involving animal research 2016/17.
What we're doing
We’re committed to being open about research involving animals:
- We're proud to have been one of the first signatories to the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research.
- We're actively engaged in the review of Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to move towards greater transparency regarding the use of animals in research. Read our consultation response [PDF 427KB].
- We're working together with partners across Europe to feed into the review of the European Directive 2010/63/EU.
Replacing, reducing and refining animal research: the 3Rs
The 3Rs is a framework established over 50 years ago to ensure humane and high-quality scientific research.
The 3Rs stand for:
- Replacement – promoting the use of other methods
- Reduction – reducing the number of animals used
- Refinement – minimising pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm, as well as improving the welfare of the animals used.
The 3Rs are critically important. Our funding is contingent on researchers meeting the 3R standards and we’ve embedded them throughout our grant processes.
How we work with the NC3Rs
We support the work of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) and are a long-standing funder of their activities.
When we consider a grant application from a researcher who will use non-human primates, cats, dogs or horses in their project, we send their application to the NC3Rs for its opinion and guidance to inform our decision making.
- Read our commitment with funders across Europe [PDF 434KB] towards ensuring responsible research involving animals.
- Our case studies [PDF 193KB] show a range of novel and innovative projects that are helping to reduce, replace and refine the use of animals in research.
- See our FAQs on European Directive 2010/63/EU [PDF 107KB] – they explain how and why animals are used in research and the legislation which governs this activity.
If you have any questions, contact Sam Alvis