Animal testing is used for education, scientific research and statutory research tasks in various departments and research institutes at WUR, and for a wide range of research questions.
It concerns education, scientific research and legal tasks in the field of:
Test animals may be used as a model for humans in health and welfare research. Examples are research into nutrition and health, lifestyle, health in old age and metabolic disorders. These all concern humans.
However, the test animal may also be used as a model for the animal itself. In this case, the test animal is called the target animal. For example, chickens are used as test animals in research into improving the health and welfare of chickens. Target animals are also used to research diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, or ‘zoonoses’.
Research at WUR is also carried out in the field of animal production, including livestock farming, the fisheries sector and fish farming. For example, we investigate how to increase the sustainability of existing animal production systems. We also develop new systems that contribute to more sustainable food production.
Livestock research, for example, concerns the nutrition, behaviour and welfare of animals and greenhouse gas emissions from farms.
A large part of the research in animal health, food safety and environmental pollution is statutory research that is commissioned by the Dutch government. These are the ‘statutory research tasks’. Examples are the diagnosis and identification of notifiable animal diseases, safety and efficacy tests, the detection of pollutant residues (residue testing) and toxicology research.
WUR also carries out research into the toxicity of substances in the environment. This research therefore contributes directly to a safe environment for humans and animals. We explicitly seek to develop alternatives to animal testing for such research.
A very small proportion of the research projects that use animal testing concern plant health. These projects include the development of tests to detect plant diseases. Every year, depending on the crop, between 15 and 50% of the global harvest is lost to disease and plague. If we are to improve food security, it is vitally important to prevent plant disease.
In the Netherlands alone, millions of plant samples are tested every year using tests developed at WUR. These tests are just as important at the global level. Much research is carried out into developing alternative tests that do not require animal experiments.