Research involving animals
Almost every major breakthrough in human and veterinary medicine has depended on the use of animals to research, develop or test new therapies.
At this time, research involving animals remains an essential tool to increase our understanding of how human and animal bodies work, and how diseases can be prevented or treated.
On this page
We support the use of animals in research if researchers can show that it is legally, ethically and scientifically justified.
We want to encourage a more open dialogue between researchers and the public on:
- how and why animals are used in research
- how animal research is governed in the UK and the European Union
- how the 3Rs are put in place, and care and welfare is ensured.
We have guidelines in place for the researchers and organisations we fund. Read our use of animals in research policy.
See our analysis of Wellcome grants involving animal research 2017/18.
What we're doing
Our joint statement with funders across Europe [PDF 493KB] commits to three principles for responsible research involving animals.
Openness in research
We're proud to have been one of the first signatories to the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research.
Signatories have made commitments to:
- be clear about when, how and why we use animals in research
- talk openly with the media and the public about our work
- provide opportunities for people to find out about research using animals
- report on progress annually and share our experiences.
We were actively engaged in the review of Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to move towards greater transparency on the use of animals in research. Read our consultation response [PDF 427KB].
Replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals in research
The 3Rs is a framework to make sure that scientific research involving animals is humane.
The 3Rs stand for:
- Replacement – using methods which avoid or replace the use of animals
- Reduction – minimising the number of animals used per experiment
- Refinement – minimising animal suffering and improving welfare.
Our funding is dependent on researchers meeting the 3Rs and we’ve embedded them throughout our grant processes.
We’re a long-standing supporter of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). We send grant applications to them for independent review if the researcher is using:
- cats, dogs, equidae or non-human primates
- large numbers of any type of animal.
Our case studies [PDF 193KB] show a range of innovative projects that are helping to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research.
- Use of animals in research policy
- Wellcome grants involving animal research 2017/18
- FAQs on European Directive 2010/63/EU [PDF 107KB] – how and why animals are used in research and the legislation which governs this activity
- Science Media Centre – provides support for researchers who want to talk openly with the media and the public about their research involving animals.
If you have any questions, contact Beth Thompson