Research Integrity: Concise

The humane use and care of animals in research


The decision to use animals in research is a personal one that researchers should make thoughtfully, taking into account the different views that exist

The use of animals in research is controversial. Some view it as essential to the advancement of knowledge for the benefit of society, while others view some or all animal research as inhumane, unethical and unacceptable. If you believe that the use of animals in research is ethical and essential to your research, make sure you fully understand society's expectations for the humane use and care of animals.

This course provides a summary and brief explanations of the basic responsibilities researchers have when conducting animal subjects research. It covers:

  • Global guidance and ethical principles
  • Institutional context
  • Getting approval
  • Next steps
  • What can go wrong?

Additional information on policies in Australia can be found in the 'Australian animal research policies' screen at the end of this course.

Responsibilities in animal research

Researchers who in one way or another use animals in their research, or study animals, are responsible for:

Knowing what animals and activities are subject to regulation
Understanding and following the rules for developing and getting approval for projects
Obtaining appropriate training for you and your staff
Accepting continuing responsibility for compliance through all stages of a project

In general, the regulations and best practices for animal research apply to:

  • Vertebrates
  • The study or use of animals outside their natural environment
  • Studies in natural settings that could have an impact on animals, such as changing their feeding patterns or social behaviours.

Under some circumstances, non-vertebrate animals might be subject to regulations or professional guidelines.

As will be set out in more detail below, if you study or use animals as part of your research, or even creative activities, you could be subject to different regulations and guidelines. You are responsible for knowing when your work is regulated and must be approved. If you are uncertain, contact the appropriate office or agency to find out. Do not make any assumptions if you are not sure about your responsibilities.

Everyone working with animals in research should have an introduction to basic responsibilities, as provided in this course. If you care for, interact with or handle animals, additional in-person training is usually required.

Getting approval for animal research is a first step, not the last. As will be outlined below, your responsibilities for the humane treatment of the animals you study or use continues through to the formal completion of a study.

Click the tabs on the left for more information.

Once you finish this course, check with your institutional official or office to find out if more training is needed.