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Animal research

At UCL, we are committed to the highest standards of animal welfare and working to reduce, refine and replace animal research where possible.

  1. Replace animal use wherever possible;
  2. Reduce the number of animals used;
  3. Refine both procedures and husbandry in order to minimise suffering and enhance welfare.

Good practice guidelines and standards apply to all research involving the use of live animals, animal derived biological material and animal-derived data. BBSRC, DEFRA, EPSRC, MRC, NC3Rs, NERC, Wellcome Trust and other AMRC charities produced the guidance: ‘Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research: Expectations of the major research council and charitable funding bodies’.

In the UK, research using animals is regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and includes regulations on housing, environment, welfare, care, and health. All animal experimentation at UCL must be approved by the Home Office before it commences.

What are the types of licences?

There are three types of licence that the Home Office issue:

  • Establishment Licence - for the place at which the work is carried out; UCL holds an establishment licence jointly covering the Bloomsbury Campus, Institute of Neurology, Institute of Ophthamology, Royal Free Campus and Clare Hall. There are separate establishment licences for the Institute of Prion Diseases and the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre.
  • Personal Licence - Each researcher wishing to work with animals has to undergo training and obtain a personal licence to ensure they have appropriate skills and experience. 
  • Project Licence - Each project licence covers the aims of undertaking the research and permitted methods of a particular research group, typically for a five year period. This must be approved before any regulated procedures can commence.

You as a researcher need to ensure that you hold a valid personal licence and that you have permission to use the authority of the relevant project licence.

To obtain a project licence will require approval from approval from local UCL Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) before applying to the Home Office. Establishment licence holders and the Chairs of AWERBS are ex officio members of the UCL Animal Welfare Strategy Committee, which ensures strategic conformity across UCL. The Animal Welfare Strategy Committee reports to the Research Governance Committee.

For more information see the UCL Biological Services website. 

What animals are protected under the UK legislation?

The law protects any living vertebrates and cephalopods.

  • Mammals, birds and reptiles are protected from when they have reached the last third of their gestation or incubation period;
  • larval forms of fish and amphibians are protected once they are capable of feeding independently;
  • cephalopods are protected from the point when they hatch.

Research on animals before they reach the developmental threshold does not require a licence, you also do not require a licence to use biological materials (tissues, organs, cells, blood etc.) if it is collected from animals’ post-mortem.

Animal research overseas

When conducting, or collaborating in, research in other countries, organisations and UCL researchers have to comply with the legal and ethical requirements existing in the UK and in the countries where the research is conducted.

Researchers must notify their local AWERB, before the works starts, of any research they intend to carry out that involves the use of animals in a laboratory overseas. Procedures that use non-human primates, or which would be assessed as severe under A(SP)A, must receive formal AWERB approval for the work.

AWERBs, at their discretion, might also require formal appraisal and approval, by an AWERB panel, of procedures using other species. These requirements apply to:

  • Import of animal tissues (e.g., blood samples and antibodies)
  • Export of live animals
  • Collaborative studies, any aspect of which uses animals in a laboratory outside the UK
Additional Guidelines

Safety Services guidance - Managing the risk from exposure to laboratory animal allergens

UKRIO Primer on Research Involving Animals V2.0

This document includes an abundance of information regarding good practice, responsible conduct and integrity that relates to animal use in research. 

Planning animal research - PREPARE

The PREPARE (Planning Research and Experimental Procedures on Animals: Recommendations for Excellence) guidelines represent current best practice for planning laboratory animal science. It is a checklist containing 15 specific points.

Reporting animal research -ARRIVE

ARRIVE stands for ‘Animal Research Reporting In Vivo Experiments’ and represents best practice guidance for the reporting of animal studies. The 21 items in the ARRIVE guidelines 2.0 have been organised into two sets representing different levels of priority; the “ARRIVE Essential 10” describes information that is the basic minimum to include in a manuscript.

Further information about research with animals at UCL can be found on the Animal Research at UCL website.