Why Animals in Research?

Virtually every treatment, cure, vaccine, diagnostic and surgical procedure available today has been made possible through research involving animals.

To identify and treat disease, researchers must study biological processes in living organisms. Animals share several of the same cell processes and bodily functions as humans such as breathing, reproduction, digestion, vision and hearing. In addition to our genetic similarities, humans and animals experience many of the same diseases and symptoms.

The study of healthy and diseased animals allows researchers to develop treatment strategies and measure the safety and efficacy of new medicines, surgical procedures, and vaccines that will, ultimately, be used to treat and cure animals and people.

  • Disease states in animals may be induced for study, as with genetic manipulations in mice, or naturally occurring.
  • Dogs are known to develop many of the diseases that affect people, naturally, and mainstream veterinarians and researchers are also working together to find cures for pets that can then be translated to treatments for human patients.

This One Health approach to studying and treating disease in animals and people is commonly referred to as Comparative Medicine.

The use of computer models, cell cultures, and other non-animal means for screening and collecting information relevant for study are helpful, but none of these technologies can behave in every way and on every level like an intact living system. There is presently no reliable way to model function and response in complex organisms without animals and human clinical trials, though the continued development of human stem cell-based technologies may prove promising for screening drugs with better precision in the future. Currently, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the testing of new treatments and drugs in larger animals models prior to approval for testing in human clinical trials. (See the FDA Drug Development Process here )

People and animals live longer and healthier lives as a direct result of biomedical advances made possible by research with animals. Every time we see a doctor with a health issue, we expect a medical solution. And, for now, the solutions we demand to alleviate suffering and premature death for us and our loved ones require biomedical studies with animals.

“My own experience of over 60 years in biomedical research amply demonstrated that without the use of animals and of human beings, it would have been impossible to acquire the important knowledge needed to prevent much suffering and premature death not only among humans but also among [other] animals.”

—Albert Sabin (1906-1993)

Sabin was the Polish American medical researcher best known for developing the oral polio vaccine, which has played a key role in nearly eradicating the disease. 

People and mice share about 90% of the same genes. Of the animals that contribute to biomedical studies, 95% are mice.