Animal research

UK Animal Research Regulations – Speaking of Research

Additional checks
Other relevant regulations

Overview of animal research regulations in the UK

The UK has some of the strictest animal research regulations in the world, guided by the Animals Act 1986 (Scientific Procedures) (A SPA). Research on great apes (orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos) was banned in 1986 and animal testing for cosmetics or their ingredients was banned in 1998. It is illegal to use an animal’s there is an alternative non-animal method, and the expected benefits of the research must outweigh any potential animal suffering. The government the summary these laws as follows:

We have legislated so that experimentation is only allowed when there is no alternative research technique and the expected benefits outweigh any adverse effects.

Three licenses must be granted by the government before an experiment can take place: a personal license for the individual doing the experiment, a project license for each experiment, and an establishment license for the institution performing the experiment. experience. Licenses are granted for medical, veterinary, scientific and environmental research.

Dogs, cats, monkeys, and horses have special protections, which means they can only be used if no other animal, such as a mouse or fish, is sufficient. Together they were used in less than 0.5% of experiments in 2013. The UK has two levels of regulation: local and national. Projects must be approved by an institution’s Animal Welfare and Ethics Review Body (AWERB), which will also advise the Principal Investigator on issues relating to animal welfare and the 3Rs. The project must then be approved by the Home Office, who will perform a damage / benefit analysis to assess whether the expected benefits outweigh any negative effects on the animal. The work of the Home Office in processing applications and inspecting animal facilities is under close scrutiny by the Animals in Science Committee, that is made of a diverse composition including scientists, animal rights activists, laypersons and a veterinarian.

Most research in the UK is conducted in universities and medical schools and focuses on finding out how biological systems work rather than testing pharmaceuticals. More than half of the experiments authorized in 2013 were related to the breeding of genetically manipulated mice, such as deaf mice breeding understand the role of genes in deafness.

ASPA underpins the regulation of animal research in the UK

Each year, the government publishes comprehensive statistics on the use of animals in research. These include the number of animals used, number of procedures, types of research, number of genetically modified animals, and types of anesthetics used (and much more), with each table broken down by species. See these statistics.

In 2013, EU Directive 2010/63 was transposed into UK law, resulting in minor but significant changes in the ASPA of 1986. These included the introduction of lay summaries and retrospective animal suffering assessments.


There have been special controls on the use of laboratory animals in the UK since 1876. Prior to 1876 there were general laws protect animals since 1822. The 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act also granted additional protections for cats, dogs, monkeys and horses, stipulating that they should not be used if another animal, such as a mouse, could be used in their place. From that point on, researchers needed a license from the Home office to conduct experiments. Beginning in 1877, the Home Office published the names and addresses of researchers as well as a record of the number of animals of which species were used in which area of ​​research. The Ministry of the Interior always publishes these annual returns but no longer names the researchers.

a An excerpt from
An excerpt from “Back showing number of experiments on live animals in the year 1922” which shows that Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming used 59 animals in authorized procedures during the year. Click to see the whole page.

The 1876 law was revised and considerably extended in 1986 while the law Animal Act (scientific procedures) (A SPA). At the heart of ASPA is a harm / benefit assessment that must be applied before any research project involving animals can proceed. Thus, the damage, in terms of potential animal suffering, must be weighed against the potential benefits of the research. A license is required under the ASPA to

[A]any procedure applied to a protected animal for an eligible purpose which may result in causing the animal a level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to or greater than that caused by the introduction of a needle in accordance with good veterinary practice.

The stringent ASPA requirements were translated into the European Directive 2010/63 / EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, which entered into force on January 2013. The directive aimed to export the UK’s high standards throughout the EU.

The UK also saw some small changes when the 1986 law was updated, so draft guidance on the operation of the ZSPA was released on January 29, 2013. Among the changes there is now an explicit reference to the 3Rs as well as how experimental gravity is reported. The draft guidance explains what the amended ASPA requires and provides detailed guidance to establishment, project and personal license holders and new license applicants. It also provides tips on how to classify the severity of an experience and what constitutes a humane kill.


Three distinct types of permits are required for research or animal testing. The ASPA says animal procedures can only:

  • take place in research institutes or companies which have appropriate animal housing and veterinary facilities, and which have obtained a establishment license
  • be part of an approved research or trial program that has received a project license
  • be carried out by persons with sufficient training, skills and experience, as indicated in their personal license (learn more about obtain a personal license)

Licenses are only granted if:

  • research cannot be performed using non-animal methods
  • the minimum number of animals will be used
  • dogs, cats or primates are only used when other species are not suitable
  • any discomfort or suffering is minimized by the appropriate use of anesthetics or pain relievers
  • the potential results are large enough to justify the use of animals (benefit-risk analysis)
  • the researchers and technicians performing the procedures have the necessary training, skills and experience
  • the research premises have the necessary facilities to properly care for the animals (in accordance with the code of good practice of the Ministry of the Interior).

Additional checks

In addition, a new level of regulation came into effect in April 1999, with the introduction of a local ethics review. In most countries, the regulation of animal research operates either through local ethics committees or through statutory controls imposed by the central government. The UK is the only country in the world to have both systems running at the same time.

the Animals in Science Committee is further responsible for providing impartial, balanced and objective advice to the Secretary of State, animal welfare bodies and within the European Union on matters relating to the Animals Act 1986 (Scientific Procedures) as as amended.

The roles of the Animals in Science committee are as follows:

  • advise the Secretary of State on all matters relating to the use of animals in scientific procedures;
  • advising animal welfare organizations on sharing best practices in the UK; and
  • by exchanging information within the European Union to coordinate best practices.

All cosmetic testing is banned in the UK, and a Europe-wide ban on testing cosmetics or their ingredients, or importing such cosmetics came into effect in 2013.

The use of great apes, such as gorillas or chimpanzees, is totally prohibited.

Other relevant regulations

Safety tests are usually carried out to ensure that medicines and other products comply with particular UK, foreign or international regulations. Typically, around 10-15% of scientific procedures are conducted to comply with the provisions of these regulations. Relevant UK laws and regulations include:

New products often have to undergo a series of different tests to meet the requirements of regulatory authorities in different countries. Efforts are being made to harmonize the requirements, which should lead to further reductions in the use of laboratory animals. The website of the Ministry of the Interior has more detailed information.

See also European regulation.