The increasingly global scope of biomedical research and testing using animals is generating disagreement over the best way to regulate laboratory animal science and care. Despite many common aims, the practices through which political and epistemic authority are allocated in the regulations around animal research varies internationally, coming together in what can be identified as different national constitutions. Tensions between these periodically erupt within the laboratory animal research community as a ‘cultural war’ between those favouring centralised control and those advocating local flexibility. Drawing on long-term engagement with key events and actors in these policy debates, I propose these national differences in the constitution of animal research can be understood through the intersection of two key variables: i) the location of institutional responsibility to permit research projects and ii) the distribution of epistemic authority to shape research practices. These variables are used to explain the development of different policy frameworks in the UK, Europe, and the USA, and identify where there is convergence and divergence in practice. Concluding, I suggest the way these approaches are combined and enacted in different countries reflects different national civic epistemologies, which are coming into conflict in the increasingly global networks of laboratory animal science.