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What is Animal Research?

Animal research is only one small part of medical and biological science. But it is an essential part. This site will help you understand why we use animals in the search for new medicines.

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Hi, my name is Emily and I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester. I am trying to understand the secret double agent inside your body which is attacking your brain after it gets injured... Your immune system!

Emily Robinson - PhD Student

Emily Robinson PhD Student

Question:

Why do you use research animals?

Answer:

I use lab rats in my research to study the damaging effect that the body's own immune system has on brain injury, for example after a stroke. As this involves a complicated relationship between the brain and the body I need to study this in a living system.

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Question:

Why is being a scientist cool?

Answer:

I have always been fascinated with puzzles and finding out how things work. Being a scientist is cool because I get to think of experiments which help to work out what is going wrong in the brain and hopefully one day this will help people have a better recovery after stroke.

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Question:

Is animal research cruel?

Answer:

As a researcher you have to work within very strict laws to make sure that the research you do is necessary and not cruel to the animals. If anyone breaks these laws they can be sent to prison. Also nobody who works with animals wants them to suffer.

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Question:

Describe a typical day in your lab.

Answer:

The best thing about science is that there are no typical days! When I start an experiment I do animal work to collect the samples, then I spend a long time processing the samples and analysing the results. If the results are exciting then I would write them up so I can publish them in a scientific paper.

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Question:

What's it like working with lab animals?

Answer:

A lot of responsibility comes with working with animals as you constantly have to make sure they are happy, healthy and not suffering. It can also be stressful as all your samples are precious, as you will not be able to repeat them. But it is worth it to think your work could help people in the future.

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Question:

What do you do to make sure the animals are taken care of?

Answer:

The animals are very well looked after as there is a whole army of people whose job it is to make sure they have everything they need. It is also important to make their environment exciting, by adding objects to their cage for them to explore, which makes them happy. And in case they get sick there is a resident vet on site.

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Question:

What do you like most about your work?

Answer:

I love that science allows you to constantly discover new things! Whether this is an exciting result from my latest experiment or a new technique I learn to help me analyse my data in the lab.

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Question:

What do you think about animal rights?

Answer:

I think that it is so important that animals are protected by animal rights laws. I personally would not be happy to work with animals in my research if I thought that animals on a whole in science were not being treated correctly in the UK.

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Question:

Will we ever be able to do without research animals?

Answer:

Unfortunately I don't think we will ever be able to do without animals in research. Drugs and treatments need to be safe. The human body and brain is so complicated that we will never be able to accurately predict drug reactions in a test tube. However, scientists are constantly trying to create alternative methods to reduce animal research.

For every animal used to test a medicine 15 people are used.

More than 77% of research animals are rats and mice.

It takes about 15 years to develop a new medicine.

Just about every medicine that you have ever used has been tested on animals.

The law says you can't use a research animal if there is any alternative.

No chimpanzees, gorillas or other great apes can be used in research (except for human beings, of course).

No animals can be used to test cosmetics in the UK.

The government has to approve every experiment using animals in the UK.

All research animals are looked after by a trained vet who is available 24/7.

Animal research facilities are inspected on average every month. The inspectors can go anywhere and arrive without warning.

The number of animals used for research has fallen by about a third since 1970.

Three licences are needed for every animal experiment.

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The mighty mouse

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