Animals Used in Experiments and Research: Legal Protection in Asia

December 22, 2020Lu Shegay


Animal testing is a widespread practice around the world where animals are used in experiments and research. This practice is usually conducted in universities for educational purposes, in medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, the cosmetic industry, etc. The annual use of vertebrate animals is estimated at 10-100 million.

Despite a lot of countries providing in their laws and statutes the prevention of animals feeling unnecessary pain, suffering, and fear, animals do not perform their natural behavior and it remains questionable whether those regulations are enforced. A dozen animal protection organizations argue that animal testing is a cruel practice and poorly regulated.

Some countries, such as the UK, Israel, Turkey, New Zealand, Guatemala, have already issued a ban on cosmetics animal testing. Ukraine, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Canada, Brazil, Japan, United States, and Australia are on the stage of following other countries to become cruelty-free. Learn more here.

Legal Protection in Asia


Animals in experiments are required to be loved, protected, be free from disrespect or abuse in accordance with Article 29 of Regulations for the Administration of Laboratory Animals. More details are provided by the Guidance on Kind Treatment of Laboratory Animals issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China. The purpose of the Regulations is to improve the level and the quality of managing laboratory animals, to maintain their welfare, to promote harmony between humans and nature, and to meet the scientific research and economic development needs. Animals, according to the Regulations, shall be free from unnecessary harm, hunger, discomfort, fear, torture, disease, or pain during the experiment, as well as being capable of performing their natural behavior, enjoying sufficient care, having a clean and comfortable environment, and being cared for within adequate sustenance.

Testing on animals for cosmetics is required in China where foreign imported ordinary cosmetics and foreign imported special use cosmetics are required to test animals before marketing the product. In 2019, the Gansu Province Medical Products Association ended animal testing in cosmetics for finished products.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was announced that wild animals used in scientific research shall be thoroughly inspected and quarantined.


In Japan, some provisions of the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals apply to animals used in scientific research and experiments (Art. 2, Art. 7(1)), but excludes fish. The Act addresses animal welfare issues with regard to this category of animals. For instance, Article 41 asserts that the number of animals used in education, testing, and research shall be reduced and the non-animal methods shall be considered before using animals in experiments. Methods that are used in experiments are also required to cause minimum pain and distress within certain limits of “necessity” assuming the Three Rs principles. If the possibility of an animal’s recovery is low, that animal must be killed by a method minimizing pain and distress.

The government issued many guidance documents with regard to animals used in experiments, however, they have a non-binding character.

Testing of cosmetics and their ingredients on animals is not banned yet in the country, but 9 Japan-based companies ended their testing on animals in 2018.

In 2014, Japan announced the research plan “New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean,” however the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the program was not designed for the purposes of scientific research. (See Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening). The “NEWREP-A” plan was intended to cover the larger area of the Southern Ocean around the Antarctic and almost 4000 whales were targeted to be caught. The ICJ decision concluded that the NEWREP-A plan needed to meet two objectives: (1) Improvement of both biological and ecological data on Antarctic minke whales; and (2) Investigation of the structure and dynamics of the Antarctic marine ecosystem through the development of ecosystem models.

Japan declared that it will kill whales if non-lethal methods of data collection and biopsy sampling fail to meet the objectives of the plan. Moreover, the IUCN provided that the population of Antarctic minke whales was classified as data deficient. In 2015, the Japanese representative of the UN announced that Japan would not wait for the court’s ruling, would proceed with its NEWREP-A plan research, conservation, or exploitation of marine life, and does not agree with the court’s decision with regard to research, exploitation, or conservation of marine life. A couple of months later, Japan sent its fleet to the Antarctic Ocean to hunt 330 minke whales.


In India, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act applies to those animals used in experiments, mainly, Chapter 4 of the Act. More details are provided by the Breeding of and Experiments on Animals Rules, stating that institutions are obliged to register for carrying out animal experiments, as well as obtaining the permit for each experiment from the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals. Section 9 provides that animals’ welfare shall be taken into consideration and all animal experiments shall be done “with due care and humanity.” Moreover, the agency requires animals to not be subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering before, during, or after the experiment, but the Act itself does not prohibit such conduct.

First amendments to the Act were made in 2001 clarifying the definition of “experiment. In 2006, amendments specified that first experimenters shall consider using animals “lowest on the phylogenetic scale” and that the minimum number of animals shall be used to achieve 95% statistical confidence, as well as providing proof of not using non-animal alternatives, which overall included the Three Rs principles - Replacement, Reduction, Refinement.

In 2013, India banned cosmetics and their ingredients tested on animals. The same year the use of animals in experiments was also banned in medical education. The following year, the country also banned the import of cosmetics that were tested on animals becoming the first country in South Asia to do so.

In 2002, the Central Board of Secondary Education enacted a ban on killing frogs, rats, and earthworms for biological tests. In 2014, the University Grants Commission prohibited dissecting animals in the courses of zoology and life science in universities.

"New rats" by ressaure is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Article 66 of Law No. 18 providing general animal welfare regulations state that animals shall be free from pain, fear, or pressure, which applies to the category of animals used in experiments and scientific research. Article 82 in particular indicates that animal welfare is required to be considered in genetic engineering research.

Another legal instrument that regulates the welfare of laboratory animals is Regulation No. 95, which provides that animals shall be free from hunger and thirst, pain, injury and disease, discomfort, persecution and abuse, fear and distress. Article 83(2)(3) specifies that these principles of freedom shall be applied in such activities as transportation, caging, maintenance, and general protection of animals. Article 97 states that ways that do not hurt animals or lead them to stress shall be prioritized, as well as a clean environment, adequate food and drink that suit the psychological needs of animals shall be provided. Article 99 of the Regulation prohibits the engagement in activities that lead to unnecessary suffering for animals; mutilation of animal bodies; using the materials that cause disability, injury, toxicity, and/or death of animals; or causing animals to feel pain, fear, disability, or death.

As for the use of wild animals in scientific research, in Indonesia, Act No. 5 allows the procedure of taking animals from the wild to use them in research.


Generally, animals used in testing, research, and teaching are protected by the Animal Welfare Act.

Specifically, Malaysia issued regulations with regard to this category of animals. The Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes aims to ensure the “ethical and humane care and use of animals.” It provides that researchers and institutions are responsible for ensuring animal welfare, promoting the development and use of techniques in alternative methods, minimizing the number of animals used in experiments and research, and avoiding any conduct that would cause pain or distress to animals.

The Code of Practice provides definitions of animal welfare, animal well-being, and distress. Animal welfare is defined as “an animal’s quality of life based on an assessment of an animal’s physical and psychological state as an indication of how the animal is coping with the ongoing situation as well as a judgment about how the animal feels,”  while animal wellbeing, according to the Code of Practice, is “an animal’s present state with regard to its relationship with all aspects of its environment, both internal and external” implying “a positive mental state, successful biological function, positive experiences and freedom from adverse conditions.” The term “distress” is provided as “the state of an animal, that has been unable to adapt completely to stressors, and that manifests as abnormal physiological or behavioural responses.”

The Three Rs principles are also required to be used, which are enshrined in the Code of Practice, in the procedures of using animals in laboratories. Anesthesia and analgesia are required in almost all procedures. Moreover, Section 3.4.4 of the Code of Practice lists potential behavior and physiological changes that demonstrate animals feeling pain or distress. It is prohibited to deprive animals of food, water, social interactions. Euthanasia must be conducted with humane methods, avoiding pain and distress, with the rapid loss of consciousness.

The Code of Practice is also applicable to both studies in wild and laboratory research. The former requires additional permits issued by the Department of Wildlife, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, while the latter kind of research provides that capture methods shall be of minimum distress to animals and animals’ well-being must be taken into consideration.


The country’s Animal Welfare Act applies to animals used in experiments and scientific research in accordance with Administrative Order No. 40. It is prohibited to use animals in research or experiments that were not authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare. It also provides that euthanasia shall be conducted in a rapid and humane manner.

The Philippines has issued regulations with regard to the registration of facilities and laboratory animal facilities. Learn more here.

Animal experiments with the purpose of scientific research must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees that uses the Three Rs principles in their decisions. This Committee has a duty to inspect animal care facilities at least once a year and provide the evaluation of veterinary care, environment of animals, and management.

Also, the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act allows capturing wild animals for the purpose of scientific research.

South Korea

The Animal Protection Act applies to laboratory animals, but not all species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish are protected under this Act. Article 23 of the Act states that the dignity of animals’ lives must be taken into consideration and alternative methods providing that the minimum number of animals are used in experiments. Animals shall be free from pain, euthanasia must not be painful and is required if an animal used in experiments will not recover or subjected to life in pain. Article 24 prohibits using lost animals, abandoned animals, and service animals in experiments.

Animal testing is also regulated by the Laboratory Animal Act that defines a laboratory animal as “any vertebrate used or raised for the purpose of animal testing.” According to Article 5, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is responsible for developing and promoting policies of the use of animals in experiments, as well as developing alternative methods and support education. The agency is also required to publish an annual report on animal testing.


In Thailand, Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes has been issued by the National Research Council of Thailand, which provides that “animal users should reserve the use of animals for situations of their unavoidable necessity or when there is no other available option.” Also, as in some other countries of Asia, the number of animals used in research shall be reduced and animals shall be treated “with caution to avoid stress, pain, and suffering by providing optimum conditions for transportation, animal husbandry, environmental enrichment, prevention of diseases and appropriate experimental techniques.” But the document has only an advisory character and is legally non-binding.

The Preamble of the Prevention of Cruelty and Provision of Animal Welfare Act provides that the Act is applicable to “all animals kept for usage,” thus the Act is implied to be applicable to animals used in experiments and scientific research. Section 20 of the Act does not allow animal cruelty, but Section 21 provides an exemption with regard to “any action towards an animal’s body that is deemed by the veterinary profession taken by any veterinary practitioner, or by any person who is authorised to do so without any registration and who is licensed to serve as a veterinary practitioner by the Veterinary Council in accordance with the law regarding the veterinary profession.” The provision can be related to animals used in scientific research as well.

Furthermore, another instrument that regulates the conduct with regard to these animals is the Animals for Scientific Purposes Act B.E. 2558, the purpose of which is to supervise and promote procedures on animals for scientific purposes and to protect animal welfare. The definition of procedures on animals for scientific purposes is stated as “caring, using, or breeding of, or any manipulation on the animals for scientific purposes.” A Committee for Supervision and Promotion of Procedures on Animals for Scientific Purposes is responsible for determining the guidelines on ethical treatment of animals in scientific research.

The Act in its Chapter 3 also covers the provisions on sale, import, export, transportation, storage, carcasses of animals, etc. Chapter 4 is related to the Criminal Code regarding the offenses on non-compliance of conditions that are used within experiments and scientific research.


In Vietnam, the Law on Animal Husbandry applies to rearing, transportation, slaughter, and scientific research, however, there are no specific provisions with regard to animal testing.

In 2014, Vietnam banned rabbit eye and skin irritation tests within the country.


Currently, a lot of countries across the globe use animals in scientific research, experiments, and testing for various purposes, such as cosmetics, medicine, education. Some countries have already declared themselves as cruelty-free countries eliminating animal testing for cosmetic purposes and some countries are at the stage of becoming such countries. Granted some Asian countries already prohibited using animals for educational purposes. Most of the countries adhere to the Three Rs principles and seek alternative methods in experiments, as well as reduce the number of animals used. Many countries in Asia in their Animal Welfare Act provide the regulation on handling animals in different fields, including animal testing and research, issued regulations aiming at animal welfare, however, the question of whether those laws are enforced remains unknown.

What We Can Do to Protect These Animals?

Abstain from buying cosmetics, household products, hair and skincare products with the logo on the reverse side stating “cruelty-free,” “vegan,” and “not tested on animals.” You can get acknowledged with these logos here. That way, you will save lots of animals from cruel treatment in laboratories.

To learn more about the protection of animals in Asian countries, see our Projects page.

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