Wageningen University & Research conducts research with animals. We study animal behaviour, for example, how diseases spread among animals and the interaction between humans and animals.
Part of our animal research falls within the Law on animal testing. Research is only qualified as animal testing if the animals involved suffer ‘discomfort’ as a result of the study. This law covers only vertebrates and squids. Research on invertebrates such as bees and mosquitos is not protected under this law.
In all our research involving animals, respect for the animal and its wellbeing are leading. Animal tests are only performed if there is a clear purpose for which there are no alternative testing methods available. For example, the law demands the testing of new vaccines on animals before they may be made available to humans.
Permit required for each animal test
Testing on animals requires a permit from the Central Committee for Animal Testing (Dutch acronym: CCD). In considering an application for a permit, the CCD takes into account the advice of an independent Animal Testing Committee, that weighs the importance of the research against the discomfort for the animals. Moreover, as an external party, the Dutch Food and Safety Authority (Dutch acronym NVWA) monitors all animal testing. In keeping with the animal testing legislation, WUR has an Animal Welfare Authority, that supervises everything pertaining to the testing of animals.
Replace, reduce and refine
In designing and conducting their research, WUR-researchers follow the three Rs that the law demands: Replacing, reducing and refining. This means that researchers always check whether they can obtain the same results without the use of animals (replace), or with fewer animals (reduce) and how the discomfort for the animals may be diminished and their wellbeing improved (refine).
We follow the three R rule:
- Replacing animal testing with alternative measures such as in vitro testing, computer modelling, tissue culture or testing on eggs.
- Reducing the number of test animals by improved animal models
- Refining, by improving animal welfare by providing the animals with enough room to exhibit their natural behaviour, offering toys and materials against boredom, and housing herd and group animals with conspecifics.
Innovative methodologies are an alternative to more invasive research methods and animal testing. With the innovation programme Next Level Animal Sciences, WUR invests in this.
Guidelines and ambitions for animal testing at WUR
Wageningen University & Research has established its own policy concerning animal testing. See below for the eight guidelines and ambitions.
In 2020 WUR performed 61,335 on animals, a 21.2 per cent reduction compared with 2019 when 77,788 tests were conducted. The number of animals involved is lower than the number of tests, as a single animal may be involved in multiple tests.
These numbers reflect experiments that fall within the Law on animal testing (Dutch acronym Wod) and were completed in 2020.