Position Statement on Animals Used in Science - BC SPCA
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Position Statement on Animals Used in Science

The BC SPCA recognizes that live animals and their tissues are used for scientific purposes (i.e., in research, teaching and testing – see individual position statements) that aim to improve the lives of both people and other animals. Nonetheless, the BC SPCA envisions a society in which the direct use of animals is not necessary for advancements in medical and other scientific research.

When animals are used in science, proposed use must always be assessed in keeping with the Three Rs principles: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. The animals’ welfare must be a priority throughout all life stages and the BC SPCA is opposed to any procedure that causes pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.

Further, the BC SPCA is opposed to:

  • any animal experiments that involve unnecessary repetitions, scientifically trivial ends¹ , or techniques for which satisfactory non-animal alternatives have already been developed;
  • animal testing for inessential substances, such as cosmetics, household cleaning products, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages;
  • the use of any animal or its tissues for dissection in education²;
  • the surrender of animals by animal control agencies for research; and,
  • the use of captive wild or exotic animals in research, since the full provision of the Five Freedoms is not possible due to their complex social, physiological and behavioural needs.

Approved by the Board of Directors – September 2015


Until the use of animals in science is eliminated, the BC SPCA will work for improved protection and welfare of these animals. The current Canadian organization providing oversight for the use of animals in government-funded research, teaching and testing is the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). Participation in CCAC programs is required for institutions receiving public funding in Canada. Private research institutions may opt into CCAC participation, however, other private animal-based research, teaching or testing is conducted without CCAC involvement. The BC SPCA encourages all private institutions to become participants in the CCAC oversight program.

The BC SPCA believes that all use of animals (live and tissues) in science should be subject to ethical review and post-approval monitoring, and that the animals:

  • when kept in confinement, be treated such that their physical and behavioural needs are met in accordance with the Five Freedoms;
  • be specifically bred for experimental purposes to make animals more genetically similar and to reduce the number needed to achieve statistically significant results;
  • be provided with adequate anaesthesia and analgesia agents, and prompt medical treatment by a trained professional to minimize suffering or discomfort whenever they demonstrate symptoms of disease or injury; and,
  • be euthanized by a trained professional without delay when symptoms do not respond to medical treatment or when suffering from untreatable conditions.

In addition, appropriate training should be provided to all persons involved in handling animals.

The BC SPCA encourages the development of techniques that will result in the replacement, reduction and/or refinement of animal experiments or procedures. The Society urges government, universities, industry and other research institutions to make greater efforts to use alternatives that do not involve animals.

Background updated – September 2015


1 E.g., research on the negative effects of smoking, which has already been established as harmful to human health

2 With the exception of training animal professionals (i.e., veterinarians, technicians, animal protection staff)


Animal: A living being belonging to the kingdom Animalia

Anaesthesia: Temporary insensitivity to pain or loss of consciousness, especially as artificially induced by administration of gases or injectable drugs

Analgesia: The inability to feel pain, without the loss of consciousness, especially as artificially induced by administration of gases or injectable drugs

Five Freedoms: A concept first developed in 1965 by The Brambell Committee, formed by the UK government to examine the conditions on commercial farms. Now internationally recognized, the Five Freedoms are considered applicable to all animals.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms (adapted from the original list) are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst;
  2. Freedom from pain, injury and disease;
  3. Freedom from distress;
  4. Freedom from discomfort;
  5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

The BC SPCA’s Five Freedoms form the basis of the Society’s Charter and describe conditions that must be fulfilled in order to prevent the suffering of all animals in human care. The Society acknowledges that these freedoms are not enforceable and that absolute provision of these freedoms may not be possible, but strongly encourages all animal guardians to strive to provide them.

Replacement: Preferred use of non-animal methods over animal methods whenever it is possible to achieve the same scientific aims Reduction: Use of methods that enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information using fewer animals, or to obtain more information from the same number of animals

Refinement: Use of methods to alleviate or minimize potential pain, suffering or distress, and enhance welfare for animals used