Animal testing for biomedical research

22 April 2016
Today’s medical research cannot be carried out without animal testing. After all, many breakthroughs in medical science would never have occurred otherwise. Of course, alternatives have been developed for a number of experiments, such as the use of cell cultures. Researchers will initially always opt for these alternatives, but in many cases tests involving laboratory animals will, at a given time, be inevitable. Only living animals demonstrate the many complex interactions between the various types of cells and tissues, the immune system, the hormone balance and the vascular system. Currently, we are still unable to simulate these complex interactions in any other way.

The decision to use laboratory animals in an experiment is never taken lightly. This is always preceded by careful deliberation between the societal need to eliminate diseases - some of which are life-threatening - and the desire to prevent and minimize animal suffering. This balance can tilt either way. VIB and other organizations that use animals for research purposes therefore apply the principle of the three ‘R’s’: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animals in research. Only in the event of an extremely pressing objective, in which no alternative can be found to attain the same goal, will a researcher opt for animal testing. In cases like these the number of animals subjected to the tests will be reduced to the absolute minimum required to ensure a scientifically correct outcome. In addition to this, all possible measures are taken to reduce any suffering to the greatest extent possible.

As a scientific research organization, we wish to call attention to the necessity of being able to continue conducting experiments with laboratory animals. VIB is open to transparent communication about the manner in which animal testing takes place in practice. This is why VIB is supportive of a joint declaration of Belgian companies and research organizations on the occasion of the “World Day for Laboratory Animals” on 24 April. Please visit for more general information about animal testing.

If you require more specific information, you can contact René Custers.

©VIB - Ine Dehandschutter