Who regulates animal research on campus?

Both federal and university bodies regulate research using vertebrate animals: U.S. Department of Agriculture. Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, National Institutes of Health. Food and Drug Administration. Animal research at UW-Madison is overseen by five animal care and use committees, with assistance from the Research Animal Resources Center.

Can you reduce your use of animals by doing something else?

Yes, and we are. For example, two types of stem cells (embryonic and induced pluripotent) are producing human cells that are already being used to test candidate drugs for toxicity. These stem cells are routinely used to produce human heart muscle cells, and because heart toxicity can be lethal, this process will save the lives of both animals and people. Other projects are looking into computer simulations of various sorts that can help reduce the need for research animals. The federal government is looking into alternatives to animal research.

Do your researchers look at alternatives to using live animals?

Yes. Following the federal Animal Welfare Act, the UW–Madison Researcher’s Guide to Animal Care and Use specifies that investigators consider alternatives to animal use, as part of its commitment to humane research: Replacement; using non-animal alternatives, such as cell culture, or choosing a species lower on the phylogenetic tree (mice instead of monkeys) Reduction; using the smallest number of animals necessary for valid scientific results Refinement; choosing procedures that minimize pain and distress.

Why can’t you replace animals with a computer?

Humans, like all animals, are extremely complicated. Drug development, for example, shows the difficulty of finding an accurate alternative. Many drugs are discovered because a chemical compound does something useful in a laboratory dish, but that discovery is followed by a long process of trial and error: first with simple animals, then with more advanced ones. Even the drugs that do reach human trial often either fail to work or have unacceptable side effects, often discovered first through testing on animals. It’s true that some drugs and diseases “work” one way in mice and another in people; but if animal research can be misleading, computer-based research is likely to be even more difficult. When so much is unknown, how could we possibly program a computer to test drugs and procedures? To put it another way: We will not be able to do all our health and biology research in computers …


Research labs are held to comprehensive laws and rules through oversight from the U.S Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, and others.

Animal Care

The university accepts responsibility for the stewardship of all animals under its care, conducting the kind of careful, ethical studies that can improve human and animal health.

UW-Madison Cat Study Resolution

On Sept. 30, 2013, the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) issued a report regarding allegations of noncompliance in a University of Wisconsin-Madison hearing study involving cats.  Based on a press release from PETA, we have to wonder if they and we are actually reading the same report.  The NIH (OLAW) report on allegations made by PETA is fully supportive of what has been UW-Madison’s position all along, which is that the cats did not suffer, received appropriate veterinary care, and participated willingly in the behavioral experiments that were a part of the study.  Not a single one of PETA’s specific allegations could be supported. See for yourself.  Here is a letter that OLAW wrote to us after they visited the animals and the facilities with a team of three veterinarians, including one from USDA. Here is the final report. As you will see from reading these …

The rest of the story

I believe that when a public institution elects to employ animals in research, it should be willing to explain and defend its decisions out loud.  Sometimes animal activists make the job easy, by grossly misrepresenting the design, consequences, and/or reasons for a study.