Responsibility and Ethics

Responsibility and Ethics

Animal experimentation presents scientists with an ethical dilemma: on the one hand, they are trying to gain new knowledge, treat diseases and alleviate human suffering; on the other hand, they want to protect the lives of animals. There is no satisfactory solution to this conflict as long as animal studies are often the only way to gain knowledge about processes in nature.

Wherever possible, we use non-animal methods such as cell culture, computer modelling and studies in human volunteers. We always choose the technique that is best suited to answering the scientific question at hand. Only when there is really no alternative to using animals do we resort to live animal testing.

Animal welfare

We are committed to the welfare of laboratory animals. Animal welfare, the best possible housing conditions and responsible treatment of animals are an ethical obligation for us. Animal welfare is also in the interest of scientists, as it is essential for reliable and reproducible scientific results. Each experiment is carefully planned and possible alternatives are considered. Great efforts are also made in the care and husbandry of laboratory animals. Animals are cared for by experienced veterinarians and qualified animal keepers.

Our researchers strive to minimise the number of animal experiments and the stress on the animals during each experiment. They apply the so-called 3Rs principle when planning and conducting experiments. 3R stands for 'reduce, refine, replace': The number of animals per experiment is reduced to the absolute minimum necessary (reduce); the performance of the experiments and the care of the animals are optimised in such a way that the stress on the animals is minimised (refine); whenever possible, animal experiments are replaced by alternative methods (e.g. cell cultures, computer models, imaging techniques) (replace).

In addition, the Max Planck Society has committed itself to an 'R' for 'Responsibility' in its 2016 Declaration of Principles. It aims to use its knowledge in the life sciences and humanities to promote animal welfare in its institutes.

In order to fulfil the fourth R, the Max Planck Society is committed, among other things,

  • to improve the social life of laboratory animals
  • to further develop the scientific basis for the objective determination of sentience, pain, consciousness and intelligence in the animal kingdom.
  • to actively support the professionalisation of public discourse on animal ethics.
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