Policy

Animal research and testing

Issue

We respect the fact that people have strong ethical objections to the use of animals in scientific procedures. We have legislated so experimentation on animals is only permitted when there is no alternative research technique and the expected benefits outweigh any possible adverse effects. The Government is committed to the replacement, reduction, and refinement the use of animals in research - the “3Rs”.

The use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work both in health and disease, and in the development of new medicines, treatments and technologies. Underpinning this research is a strong commitment to maintaining a rigorous regulatory system which ensures that animal research is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists and under controls which keep suffering to a minimum. This is achieved through robustly applying the principles of the 3Rs to all research proposals involving the use of animals.

Actions

The Home Office issues licences under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. We authorise:

  • projects involving the use of animals in research and testing
  • those who carry out scientific procedures on animals
  • the places where scientific procedures are carried out

See our guidance on research and testing using animals for more information.

In 2010, the coalition made a commitment to reduce the use of animals in scientific research and our Working to reduce the use of animals in research: delivery plan is now available. The plan builds on existing work, such as the NC3Rs ARRIVE guidelines to improve reporting standards and ensure that the data from animal experiments can be fully utilised.

We are committed to reducing the use of animals in research and the delivery plan shows how alternative methods can deliver fast, high quality research that also boosts economic growth.

Background

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 requires that, before a project licence is issued, the Secretary of State must weigh the benefits to humans, other animals, or the environment against the costs to the animals involved.

A licence cannot be granted if the work could be carried out without using animals. The procedures authorised must cause the minimum possible suffering to the smallest number of animals of the lowest sensitivity.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 has a 3-level licensing system:

  • those carrying out the scientific procedures must hold personal licences, which ensures that they are qualified and suitable
  • the programme of work must be authorised in a project licence
  • the place at which the work is carried out must hold an establishment licence

Bills and legislation

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

The use of animals in scientific procedures is regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. On 1 January 2013 a European directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (2012/63/EU) was implemented.

Changes to the regulations under the act - Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Amendment Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/3039) - were passed in December 2012.

See our detailed guidance on research and testing using animals for more information about the requirements of these laws.