The use of laboratory animals in tissue engineering research is an important underexposed ethical issue. Several ethical questions may be raised about this use of animals. This article focuses on the possibilities of reducing the number of animals used. Given that there is considerable debate about the adequacy of the current animal models in tissue engineering research, we investigate whether it is possible to reduce the number of laboratory animals by selecting and using only those models that have greatest predictive value for future clinical application of the tissue engineered product. The field of articular cartilage tissue engineering is used as a case study. Based on a study of the scientific literature and interviews with leading experts in the field, an overview is provided of the animal models used and the advantages and disadvantages of each model, particularly in terms of extrapolation to the human situation. Starting from this overview, it is shown that, by skipping the small models and using only one large preclinical model, it is indeed possible to restrict the number of animal models, thereby reducing the number of laboratory animals used. Moreover, it is argued that the selection of animal models should become more evidence based and that researchers should seize more opportunities to choose or create characteristics in the animal models that increase their predictive value. © 2012 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.