Animal testing

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.

Number of animal experiments at WUR

In 2022, WUR performed 104.891 tests on animals, a 29 per cent increase compared to 2021. This increase is attributed to the increase in the number of test animals for studies with the purpose of protecting animal species such as glass eels. These numbers reflect experiments that fall within the Law on animal testing (Dutch acronym Wod) and were completed in 2022.

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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:

  1. Replacing animal testing with alternative measures such as in vitro testing, computer modelling, tissue culture or testing on eggs
  2. Reducing the number of test animals by investing additional time in preliminary research and improved animal models
  3. 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.

Transparancy in animal testing at WUR

By ratifying the VSNU transparency code for animal testing, WUR has committed to all non-statutory regulations. This code demands that scientific organisations commit to binding transparency and dialogue on animal testing. We collaborate towards this end with other universities and Stichting Proefdiervrij.

Wageningen University & Research has established its own policy concerning animal testing. See the eight guidelines and ambitions of WUR.

Of all animal tests for which a license has been authorised, the European Commission publishes non-technical project summaries (NTS) in the ALURES database.