WUR and animal experimentation: guidelines and ambitions

All animal experimentation at WUR complies with the Wod. In addition, WUR has formulated its own policy on animal experimentation. This policy is based on the following eight guidelines and ambitions:

Research and education of WUR

The mission of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. To fulfil this mission, WUR provides education and conducts research. Animal experiments are an essential part of this education and research. In this context, they are used as models for humans, as models for the animal species themselves (target animal research) and for fundamental biological research. Target animal research involves domesticated animals (e.g. livestock and companion animals) and non-domesticated animals (wild fauna).

Wageningen University (WU) and Wageningen Research (WR) are both licensed to conduct animal experiments as described in the Experiments on Animals Act (abbreviated in Dutch as Wod). Animal experimentation is prohibited in the EU unless the societal importance of the experiment outweighs the potential pain and suffering of the animals. According to the Wod, if animals that are used for research or education undergo a treatment that involves more pain and suffering than caused by the insertion of a needle by a competent person, then this is defined as animal experimentation. Even if animals without prior treatment are euthanised by a competent person for research or education purposes, this is also defined as animal experimentation. A specific permit is required for each animal experiment.

Part of the animal experimentation at WUR is required by law, for example for the development and monitoring of vaccines and medicines.

A licensee submits the application for a project that involves animal experimentation to the Central Committee on Animal Experimentation (CCD), which can issue a permit for the project after an ethical evaluation by an Animal Experimentation Committee. The animal experiments described in this application cannot be carried out until the project has been approved. In accordance with the Wod, both WU and WR have an Animal Welfare Body (IvD). Information about the Wod (in Dutch) can be found at: Wet op dierproeven (Dutch).

Guidelines and ambitions

All animal experimentation at WUR complies with the Wod. In addition, WUR has formulated its own policy on animal experimentation. This policy is based on the following eight guidelines and ambitions:

WUR applies the following eight guidelines and ambitions:

1. WUR only conducts animal experiments that are consistent with its domain and mission
WUR assesses applications for project permits and for individual experiments on this basis.

2. WUR continuously invests in the implementation of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement)
WUR ensures that all research involving animal experimentation continuously focuses on the 3Rs. Where possible and useful, investments are made in consultation with stakeholders in the development of alternative methods. The magnitude and results of the efforts regarding implementation of the 3Rs are surveyed and reported.
The 3Rs: 1) Replacing laboratory animals with animal-free methods, including the necessary validation of these methods, 2) Reducing the number of laboratory animals to be used and 3) Refining the methods for using laboratory animals.

3. WUR presents itself as an organisation with specialised expertise in animal experimentation in which the laboratory animal is used as a model for the animal species itself (target animal research)
A large proportion of animal experiments conducted at WUR involve animal health and welfare, livestock and wild fauna. That is why WUR is taking the lead in the Netherlands in developing standards for target animal research in which the laboratory animal is a model for the animal species itself– especially in research with production animals (e.g. fish and livestock).

4. WUR is committed to increasing acceptance of alternative testing in a European context
WUR is committed to promoting the acceptance of alternative testing in international research practice. This applies in particular to statutory tasks for which strictly prescribed, internationally agreed methods have been laid down. In this case, the evidence which shows that that an alternative method is as good or even better than the existing animal experiments must be accepted as part of a complex political-legal process. This requires specialised expertise on political and legal issues, and not every researcher of alternative methods has this expertise. WUR therefore bundles the initiatives aimed at gaining approval of alternative methods and uses specialised expertise to achieve this aim.

5. WUR optimally educates its students in responsible use of laboratory animals
In its animal sciences, biology and human nutrition and health courses, WUR allows its students to come into contact with animals, animal experiments and/or animal materials. Direct contact with animals, animal experiments and/or animal materials is essential in some of these courses. Animals are used in education only after careful consideration. Before each practical, a critical assessment is again made as to whether it is still necessary to use laboratory animals for the educational purpose and what other options are available. When animals are used in education, the background and the considerations involved are discussed with the students. Students are also asked at an early stage to investigate whether and how replacement, reduction or refinement is possible in a particular animal experiment.

If students in the Bachelor's phase have fundamental objections to animal experimentation, WUR offers them an alternative without animal experimentation for compulsory courses. In the Master’s phase, these students can choose subjects that do not involve animal experimentation.

For students who want to focus on research in which the use of laboratory animals is essential, WUR provides a course – Laboratory Animal Science: Design and Ethics in Animal Experimentation. This course is compulsory for anyone who wants to conduct animal experiments as a researcher.

In the graduate schools at WUR, the PhD candidates who work with animals take compulsory courses in animal ethics and scientific integrity in relation to animal experiments.

6. WUR is transparent about its use of laboratory animals and participates in a societal dialogue on this topic
WUR annually publishes statistics on the number of laboratory animals, the pain and suffering they have undergone and the objectives of the research. The 'non-technical summaries' (public summaries) of all licensed projects are published on the WUR website to ensure transparency about current research and education with laboratory animals.

WUR wants to enter into a conversation about animal experimentation, both in education and with the public. The WUR website therefore contains an option for asking questions about or providing comments on the use of laboratory animals. WUR also holds publicly accessible meetings about animal experimentation.

7. WUR ensures compliance with the educational requirements as formulated by the Wod, including continued education and retraining (lifelong learning).
Building on the legally required basic training for those involved in designing and conducting animal experiments, WUR regularly holds compulsory training courses to keep employees up to date with specific competences and skills required for the correct implementation of animal experiments.

Guest employees are allowed to perform experiments with laboratory animals only if they have the required training and competences. Students may participate in animal experiments as part of their study programme after approval by the IvD and under the supervision of authorised employees.

WUR gives employees who are involved in the design, assessment and implementation of animal experiments the opportunity to take the necessary training courses. WUR encourages all employees involved in animal experimentation (researchers, biotechnicians and animal caretakers) to take refresher courses and advanced training. The WUR training budget covers the tuition costs of these refresher courses and this advanced training.

8. In collaboration with institutions around the world, researchers at WUR implement the Netherlands code of conduct for research integrity
Animal experimentation can be part of international scientific collaborations. When considering whether to participate in such collaborations, WUR researchers refer to the Netherlands code of conduct for research integrity

Animal experimentation that takes place in another country is subject to the regulations of the country concerned and is not assessed in the Netherlands. The ethical considerations depend partly on the societal context in the country concerned.