Biotechnology in animals and animal experiments

A licence is required for the use of biomedical techniques, such as genetic modification, in animals.  The Government hopes that to see a reduction in animal testing.

Biotechnology in animals

The Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality will only issue a licence for biotechnological interventions if they:

  • serve a public interest;  
  • have no unacceptable impact on the health or welfare of animals;  
  • do not raise any overriding ethical objections. 

Animal experiments

Around 600,000 animal experiments were conducted in the Netherlands in 2009. The Government wants to reduce these levels, and has therefore introduced strict rules for the conduct of animal experiments. Scientists are also looking for alternatives, such as specially cultivated cells and computer simulations. Animal experiments are used to develop and test new drugs, or for research into serious diseases, among other things. 

Rules and supervision of animal experiments

Animal experimentation is subject to a large number of rules in the Netherlands. A special ethical committee assesses each trial in advance; the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) monitors implementation.

Universities and private sector research centres carry out the majority of animal experiments. This is always subject to licence. Since 2003 there has been a ban in the Netherlands on experiments on apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas. Animal testing of cosmetics is also prohibited.

Replacing, reducing and refining animal testing

The Government promotes research into alternatives to animal testing. As long as there is still a need for animal testing the Government would like to reduce and refine such experimentation as far as possible.

The 3R principle: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

Government policy on animal testing is based on the 3R principle:

  • replacement: replace animal testing as far as possible with animal-free methods.
  • reduction: use as few animals as possible in each trial. Smart trial design can often reduce the number of animals required.
  • refinement: ensure optimum welfare conditions for the individual animals and prevent unnecessary distress during trials. For example, cease testing if the need for the trial does not outweigh the stress caused to the animal.