Home|Subscribe|Contact Us|Français|Looking glass as a search button

Animals Used in Science

Understanding Animal Use

Why is Animal-Based Science Conducted in Canada?

In Canada, scientists use animals to learn more about health problems that affect both humans and animals, to assure the safety of new medical treatments and devices, and to improve animal welfare among many other reasons.

Based on the CCAC’s guidelines, policies, and other recognized standards, certified institutions must only use animals when no other alternatives exist. Before beginning any animal-based study, certified institutions must carefully consider the overall ethical and scientific or pedagogical merit. Only valuable, meaningful, and valid scientific activities that promise to benefit humans, animals, or the environment should be conducted.

Additionally, when researchers or teachers develop an experiment or procedure, they must carefully consider whether the use of animals is necessary for their work, whether their sample size is appropriate, and what enhancements can be made to improve animal welfare. The Three Rs principles must be implemented at every step of the planning process, and animals should be used only if every effort to find an alternative has failed.

In CCAC-certified institutions, there are seven broad reasons why animal-based science is conducted.

Fundamental Science

Lab technician looking in a microscope

Studies of a fundamental nature relating to essential structure or function in biology, ecology, psychology, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, etc.


  • Investigating how certain hormones produced from the gut and brain regulate energy, balance, growth, and reproduction in fish
  • Designing studies to understand the cellular and/or molecular basis of inflammatory reactions

Environmental Science

Man measuring depth of a pound

Studies of the environment and human interaction with the interest of solving complex problems including the natural environment, the built environment, and the sets of relationships between them


  • Understanding the effects of pollution and degradation on the natural environment and human society
  • Studying the population dynamics of various species

Human Medicine and Well-being

Person being administered a shot in the arm

Studies for medical purposes that relate to human diseases and disorders, and their treatments


  • Studying rodents to better understand the genes involved in cancer
  • Studies undertaken on pigs to develop artificial organs for humans

Veterinary Medicine and Animal Welfare

Dog held by a veterinarian

Studies for medical purposes that relate to animal diseases and disorders, and their treatments


  • Studying dogs to better understand and develop treatments for canine epilepsy
  • Studying improvements to animal welfare through improved housing or husbandry

Food Production

Cow being offered grain

Studies aimed at the realization of sustainable, eco-friendly, and safe agriculture and sustainable animal production, feed efficiency, meat quality, etc.


  • Testing methods of reducing boar taint in pigs
  • Improving average daily gains in beef cattle

Regulatory Testing

Someone holding medication

Testing the efficacy and safety of products and medications, as legally required by government authorities for the protection of humans, animals, or the environment


  • Testing the safety of vaccines on rodents and non-human primates
  • Testing the efficacy of a new medication for Parkinson’s disease


Doctor with students looking at model of a cow

Teaching and training of individuals in post-secondary institutions or facility programs to introduce scientific concepts, and develop practical skills and expertise in specific techniques


  • Training veterinary students on disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment
  • Training animal health technicians on feline vaccination, X-rays, and dental care