Use of animals in bioscience research


Regulation of animal research in the UK

Researchers and institutions that receive Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funding for research using animals must comply with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (the Act).

The Act regulates the use of animals in research in the UK and these controls are widely regarded as some of the strictest in the world. The Act covers certain ‘protected’ species, including all vertebrates (except man) and cephalopods such as Octopus vulgaris.

The Act only permits research to be undertaken when all three of the below licenses have been granted by the Home Office:

  • Research can only take place in research institutes or companies which have appropriate animal accommodation and veterinary support, and have been granted an establishment licence.
  • Research can only be part of an approved research programme which has been authorised in a project licence which details the justification for the work and specifies the nature of the work, species and number of animals to be used and measures taken to minimise harm to the animals. A critical part of the authorisation process is an assessment of the expected benefits of the potential harms to animals. It must show how the applicant has considered the replacement, refinement and reduction (the 3Rs) in designing the programme of work, in particular explaining how the use of alternative, non-animal methods, has been considered and why it is essential to use animals. Each project licence application must be reviewed by a local ethical review committee based at the host institute, called an Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). The Animals in Scientific Research Unit at the Home Office carries out a harm/benefit analysis and can grant authority to carry out work.
  • Each person who undertakes work under the Act must hold a personal licence.

As part of the project licence application process you must produce a non-technical summary of your proposed programme of work and these are published on the Home Office website once a licence has been granted.



Last updated: 17 August 2023

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