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. The legislation describes in detail what is required to undertake any research involving animals and includes guidance on the housing, care and welfare of animals, as well as the strict licencing, training and monitoring processes involved in research.
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. Every individual area is listed and the species and type of use identified.
- Project Licence
- This details the research that will be carried out and why the work is justified. Project Licences are only granted after appropriate training has been completed and are active for a maximum of five years. There must be no alternative methods available, and the licence holder must demonstrate that the benefits clearly outweigh the likely impact on the animals’ well-being.
- Each Project Licence is granted to a single, named individual only (not a group or organisation). The holder should be the most suitable person in the research group or department to manage the project and have the appropriate level of authority to do so.
- Personal Licence
This is granted to each researcher 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 can take up to a year to complete. Scientists must provide detailed information about their proposed research, their objectives and a justification of the need for animals in the research.
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 can visit regularly, usually unannounced. They carry out detailed inspections and provide advice on all matters relating to animal work and licencing. They meet senior staff regularly to ensure high standards of compliance to the law and animal welfare guidlines are maintained at all times.