Strict laws control the use of animals in research.
The use of animals in research in the UK is controlled by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (amended in 2012).
These regulations are based on European Directive 2010/63/EU, which sets out measures for the protection of animals used for scientific purpose across Europe. The legislation describes in detail what is required to undertake any research involving animals and includes guidance on housing, care and welfare of the animals, as well as the strict licencing, training and monitoring processes involved in research itself.
Licences for animal research
Three separate licences are required in order to conduct research on animals:
- Establishment Licence
- For the premises where animal research will take place.
- Project Licence
- Describes the research that will be carried out in detail and why the work is justified. Project licences are only granted after appropriate training has been completed and are active for a maximum period of 5 years. There must be no alternative methods available, and the licence holder must demonstrate that the benefits clearly outweigh the likely cost to the animals’ well-being.
- Personal Licence
For each researcher granted after appropriate training to ensure that they have the necessary skills, competence and experience to carry out regulated procedures.
Licence application process
Applying for a Project Licence is a lengthy process that can take up to a year to complete. Scientists must provide detailed information about their proposed research, their aims and objectives and justifications of the need for animals.
Each application is scrutinised by the local Animal Welfare Ethical Review Body (AWERB) prior to submission for assessment by the Home Office.
The Secretary of State, on the advice of the Home Office, approves new Project Licences as well as the Establishment Licence.
In addition, Home Office Inspectors have access to all facilities and visit regularly, usually on an unannounced basis. They perform detailed inspections and provide advice and assistance with all matters relating to animal work and licencing. They meet regularly with senior staff to ensure high standards of compliance to the law and animal welfare are maintained and monitored at all times.