In the 1950s there existed two factions with polar opposite positions regarding research with animals: On one side were investigators who felt they had a right to experiment with animals in any way they chose, without interference or requirements concerning how the animals were treated. On the other side were anti-vivisectionists who felt that it was unethical for any research to be conducted with animals. The mutual antagonism each had for the other, and their entrenched positions created a huge obstacle to practically addressing the welfare of animals in the laboratory.

Since its founding, the Animal Welfare Institute sought to help animals and push for reform from a position in the "middle" - recognizing that research would continue to be conducted with animals, but striving for recognition of the responsibility incumbent on investigators to ensure that animals were obtained through legal channels and treated humanely.

AWI has visited research laboratories over the years to observe conditions for the animals and published and provided complimentary books to laboratory personnel to improve animal welfare in research settings. AWI worked toward passage of the Animal Welfare Act and many of its amendments that benefit animals in research, and has provided testimony to Congress, federal agencies and various scientific bodies on the problems in laboratories and the physical and behavioral needs of the animals. In addition, we have continued to face off against those in the research industry who seek even now to prevent the implementation of much-needed improvements in the care and handling of animals in the laboratory. Progress has been made, but we continue to push for additional reform.