Why Animal Research?

Researchers learning how to handle mice

Species sharing health conditions and genes with humans have been integral to the discovery and advancement of medical procedures, vaccines and cures benefiting animals and people alike. Wildlife research also plays a crucial role in understanding health and our environment.

University research involving animals is conducted to the highest ethical and welfare-driven standards and focuses on replacing, reducing and refining procedures to minimize adverse conditions wherever possible.

Before animals can be used in research, they must receive approval through the Animal Care Committee as part of Western's Animal Ethics and Care Program. Once on campus, animals are cared for by animal care technicians, veterinarians and veterinary technicians, the majority of which are part of Animal Care and Veterinary Services.

The Three ‘R’s

Western is committed to Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animal models in line with Canadian Council for Animal Care guidelines. Wherever possible, we take advantage of new and emerging technologies, repurpose existing data and models for emerging problems and replace existing models entirely when new approaches become available. For example, advanced artificial intelligence approaches can accelerate the design of treatments for viral infections, plant-based models can be used to develop viral antigens and cell organoid models may replace whole animal models. Further, establishing Open Science concepts can enable global sharing of data which can reduce the need for repeated experiments.

Animals in Research at Western

The number of animals associated with animal-based science varies year by year, depending on the number of ongoing research projects. The number and types of animals are totaled every year in the spring for provincial and national oversight bodies, helping give a broad overview of animal research at Western.

In 2022, Western had:

Types of Animals Numbers
Reptiles & Amphibians 45
Small, Non-Rodent Mammals 72
Fish 329
Large Mammals 358
Avian (Bird) Species 774
Rodents 39,516
Total 41,094