Animal Studies in Basic Research

Scientists working in the area of basic biological research sometimes need animals if there are no alternative methods to animal research available or if corresponding research cannot be carried out on humans for ethical reasons. However, the Max Planck Society has undertaken to promote alternative methods and to finance their development.

Animal research generally presents an ethical dilemma for scientists: the potential benefits for humans and the harm to the animal and other pros and cons must be carefully weighed up against each other. Our scientists, vets and animal keepers at the institute take their responsibilty in relation to the implementation of animal research and the provision of species-appropriate facilities for laboratory animals very seriously – not least because valid research findings can only be obtained from healthy and stress-free animals.

Despite strict legal regulations, the ethical balancing of harm and benefit remains an extremely challenging task. The MPG therefore commits itself to a number of measures to increase animal welfare, promote best practice and a culture of care for the animals within the legal framework of the 3Rs principle (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement). As an organization supporting basic science, the MPG introduces a 4th R for ”Responsibility”. It commits itself to use its special expertise in a wide spectrum of research fields within the life sciences and humanities to promote the advancement of animal protection.This includes assessment of adequate living conditions for the animals used in research, investigations of behaviors indicat- ing distress or dissent of the animals, and research on the cognitive abilities of different species. Scientific advances relevant for animal welfare will be mon- itored, new information distributed, and possible consequences discussed.

All Max Planck employees who work with animals are obliged to participate in a seminar on animal ethics.

The Max Planck Society would like to avail of its scientific expertise to improve animal welfare at its Institutes. Max Planck scientists will study the cognitive abilities of different animal species and behavioural expressions that are indicative of suffering or stress. It is also planned to carry out more research on animal sentience and intelligence. The researchers aim to use the insights gained from this work to plan future animal research in a way that causes less strain on the laboratory animals. 

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