Ethical Animal Experiments

Researchers at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht conduct veterinary and biomedical research. In addition to experiments that rely on cell and tissue culture techniques, computer simulations and human volunteers, this research occasionally involves experiments on animals. Laboratory animals are also used for education and training. A basic principle of all research conducted in Utrecht is that animals can experience a state of welfare and have an intrinsic value.

Approximately 20,000 laboratory animals are affected each year. Mice, rats and fish are the most common animals involved in experiments, but occasionally larger animals such as pigs, dogs or goats are required. A portion of this total are used to allow Veterinary Medicine students to practice simple procedures. These animals experience little discomfort and are often used multiple times.

Prevention, diagnosis and welfare

Experiments on animals help us to acquire knowledge about how people and animals function, and also contribute to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases in humans and animals.

Definition of an animal experiment

An experiment with animals is officially an 'animal experiment' according to the law, if the discomfort for the animal is equal or more than administering a needle. Experiments outside the definition, in which animals are involved, are carefully monitored, checked and administrated as well. This way, the welface of these animals can be guaranteed. An example: education in non-invasive veterinary diagnoses for aspiring veterinarians.

As many alternatives as possible

Experiments on animals are carried out responsibly. We are constantly striving for replacement, reduction and refinement; the so-called '3Rs' of experiments on animals. We have made considerable progress in this area over the past few years: increasingly, research can be carried out with less or no animals involved, or in a way that involves less discomfort for the animals.


The process for requesting an licence for animal experiments and the definition, execution and conclusion of it takes places very thoughtfully. During this process, nothing must go wrong. The process consists of 20 steps of care. These steps are further explained in the 2019 Annual Report.