Laboratory animals and animal welfare

Research organisations cannot avoid working with animals – those seeking to understand biological correlations must carry out experiments on animals. The protection of the laboratory animals is a particular concern for all employees of the Max Planck Society who carry out animal tests. Animal welfare, the best possible holding conditions and the responsible handling of the animals are an ethical obligation for the Max Planck staff; they also serve the employees’ interests as scientists, as they are an essential precondition for obtaining reliable and reproducible scientific results. Each experiment is carefully planned and possible alternatives are considered. Great efforts are also made in relation to the care and holding of the laboratory animals. The animals are looked after by experienced vets and qualified keepers.

Max Planck Society scientists make every effort to minimise both the number of animal studies carried out and the stress caused to the animals during the individual experiments. To this end, they apply the 3R principle (reduce, refine and re­place) in the planning and implementation of the tests: The number of animals used per experiment is reduced to the absolute minimum required (reduction); the implementation of the experiments and holding of the animals are optimised in such a way that the animals suffer as little stress as possible (refinement); if possible, animal experiments are replaced by alternative methods (replacement).

Of all of the activities involving the keeping and use of animals in Germany, animal research is subject to the most rigorous control. All experiments carried out on vertebrates are subject to authorisation, and the regulating authorities check in each individual case whether the experiment is essential or if the desired information can be obtained in a different way. Representatives of the relevant authorities have the right to access test facilities and animal holding areas at all times.

Animal studies and replacement and complementary methods for animal experiments are closely connected. In terms of the level of funding provided for basic research, for a considerable time now, the financial support for replacement and refined methods has been higher than for actual animal experiments.

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