Why we use animals in research and how many animals are used.
Many of the medical breakthroughs we take for granted today – including vaccines, antibiotics, painkillers, asthma inhalers and cancer drugs – would not have been possible without research involving animals.
Animal research remains essential for developing new medicines and veterinary medicines, and for advancing our understanding of the body in health and disease.
The University of Edinburgh is the largest university in Scotland and one of the UK’s top rated research universities. A small proportion of our research involves the use of animals as a vital component of the quest to advance medical, biological and veterinary science.
We are involved in a wide variety of medical and veterinary research investigating conditions that impact human and animal health across the world. These include diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and heart disease, as well as investigations in avian influenza and E. coli in farm animals.
In addition, we undertake fundamental biological research to increase our understanding of the normal functioning of the body, studying areas such as bone strength and immune function. The use of animals is a vital part of our research.
Our scientists employ a wide range of non-animal experimental technologies in our research including computer simulations, medical imaging, human volunteer studies and growing cells and tissues in the laboratory. However, some studies can only be undertaken in a whole animal, for example, when developing potential new medicines for diseases such as cancer and heart disease, or investigating how genetic mutations affect multiple organs and processes within the body.
All research involving animals is carried out under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. This legislation is underpinned by the three ‘Rs’ – the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement, which are applied in every area of animal research. In addition, the law states that animals can only be used in research where there are no alternatives available.
We are actively involved in developing new alternative approaches to replace the use of animals in research, as well as refining procedures and improving the design of studies to optimise the quality of all the animal work that we undertake.
We work closely with other institutions and through organisations such as the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) to encourage the sharing of best practice and new ideas.
The University has signed the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research, which was launched in May 2014.
The University reports the number of animals that are used in research by species each year.