Antibodies are used in a variety of ways to detect, monitor, extract and diagnose. Yet the products we buy as consumers and the services we rely on to protect our health and the environment we live in appear to be far removed from animal experimentation since no animals were directly tested on. Instead, antibodies are manufactured in animals, isolated and used to create an in vitro (1) test. Since animals are not tested on directly, these in vitro tests may be perceived to be an alternative to animal testing. In reality, we are not replacing animals but simply substituting methods in which the animal use is direct, for others where the animal use is buried several layers deep in the production process and our ultimate aim, to prevent unnecessary suffering by using animal friendly methods, is not achieved, since the antibody use that is overlooked still presents significant animal welfare issues.

  1. latin meaning ‘in glass’

Providing a practical framework for the regulation of animal research and testing, the 3Rs of replacement, reduction and refinement are the guiding principles underpinning the humane use of animals in scientific research and are embedded in national and international legislation. Directive 2010/63/EU sets a high scientific standard as a bench mark for global harmonization. Protecting the welfare of animals ensures the highest scientific standards are met which impacts the quality, reproducibility and cost of scientific outputs including antibody production

The use of animals to produce antibodies is unnecessary since well-established non-animal methods to produce antibodies and other affinity reagents (AFAs) [link to AFAs], exist. The opportunity exists to substitute animal derived antibody production methods for in vitro alternatives. Antibody production by in vitro methods has evolved to a level of scientific sophistication that outweighs obsolescent animal immunization methods and which now justifies the replacement of antibody production methods that are derived from them. The full replacement of animal immunization techniques by AFA methods will have an enormous impact on the number of animals saved each year.

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