Culture of Care

Today, the pharmaceutical industry thinks holistically about well-being in medical research: animal welfare and a caring corporate culture go hand in hand.

1. It concerns everyone

For years, research-based pharmaceutical companies have striven to improve animal welfare in research. At the same time, the employees, managers and corporate management in the entire organization must not be neglected. A Culture of Care therefore takes a holistic view of appreciation, resilience and well-being of animals and humans alike. The Culture of Care must be deeply embedded in the corporate culture. Ideally, it is reflected in all business activities. The lived Culture of Care in the field of animal welfare concerns everyone who has any influence on the well-being of animals. This goes for everyone from management, which establishes the framework conditions, to the animal keepers and researchers who have direct contact with the animals. It also concerns the workshops that maintain the facilities and other parts of the organization which, at first glance, appear to have nothing at all to do within vivo research.

2. The five pillars

A Culture of Care can be seen as a culture built on five pillars. The corporate values form the first pillar in the Culture of Care, which requires a corporate policy that delineates the way in which responsible animal research is conducted; it should regard animal protection and care as a priority and support transparency in relation to animal experimentation activities both internally and externally. This requires a strategic approach as the second pillar: first of all, management provides corporate directions concerning the Culture of Care and empowers the employees who work with animals; for this, management determines the relevant roles in the company and assigns responsibility.

3. In practice

The next pillar is the establishment of clear structures that support the Culture of Care and make it possible. Personnel support forms the fourth pillar. Every institution has a local management that supports and furthers the change. It has a responsibility to the employees for the demonstration of care and engagement. This leads to the pillar of practical work.In animal care, the company develops processes that foster continual improvement in the 3Rs. The use of animals involves appropriate planning of experiments and a refinement of care and animal welfare practices.

The ethics of care described by political scientist Joan Tonto shows the ethical dimensions that are served by a Culture of Care.

Ethical dimensions of the Culture of Care


Responsibility: for cultural, ethical and legal reasons, the research community is responsible for looking after animal welfare.


Attentiveness: employees and management must be aware of and appreciate the needs of their colleagues and of research animals.


Competence: research institutions are responsible for establishing competence so that advances in animal welfare can actually be achieved – without diminishing the quality of the research.

4. Ethical and entrepreneurial

Providing information throughout an organization and permanently raising awareness feeds the pulse that keeps theCulture of Care alive. If it is sustainably implemented, it forms a process that is perpetually driven, pursued and never completed. In this way, processes are constantly questioned and developed further. It benefits animal welfare if state of-the-art technologies are used that yield better data and improve understanding for the needs of the animals. Viewed in this way, Culture of Care acts on two different levels: on the one hand, it facilitates strong corporate governance and an ethical framework for work; on the other, it has a positive effect on corporate results, allowing better experiments, which lead to more reliable and more effective medicines.

5. What does it look like in practice?

So-called tunnel handling serves as a practical example to explain Culture of Care. Whereas animal attendants, lab technicians and researchers did not often share ideas in the past, companies today encourage them to communicate with each other. This exchange of ideas led the research community to appreciate how much the way in which mice and other laboratory animals are lifted out of their cages or enclosures counts towards the care of the animals. “Tunnel handling” reduces the stress level of the laboratory animals, which leads not only to better test results, but also to greater animal well-being. At the same time, the change of culture has shown all employees that management takes their arguments and suggestions for change seriously.