Jump to site navigation [j]

Science, research and statistics

Research and testing using animals

The development of drugs and medical technologies that help to reduce suffering among humans and animals depends on the carefully regulated use of animals for research.

We respect the fact that people have strong ethical objections to the use of animals in scientific procedures. We have legislated so experimentation is only permitted when there is no alternative research technique and the expected benefits outweigh any possible adverse effects.

Reducing research and testing using animals

The number of experiments involving live animals has halved in the last 30 years due to the:

  • development of new research techniques for example, a technique that enables testing of new drugs for fever-causing agents using human blood cells instead of rabbits
  • introduction of rigorous standards stipulating that animal tests can’t be conducted when there is a validated alternative research technique

How we protect animal welfare

The breeding and supply of animals for use in scientific procedures is regulated in the UK by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

Proposals to use animals in scientific projects are individually scrutinised. Project licences are only granted when:

  • there is no validated alternative to animal tests
  • the generation of new test data is justified
  • the protocols proposed cannot be further refined
  • the protocols will be likely to produce data which will meet the specified objective

All laboratories granted a license must adhere to a strict code of practice which stipulates minimum standards for:

  • animal housing and environment
  • animal care and health
  • minimised breeding of surplus animals
  • humane killing

All licensed laboratories are closely monitored and our trained officers make unannounced inspections.

Oversight and advice

The Animals in Scientific Procedures (ASP) Inspectorate provides scientific advice to the Home Secretary and to officials who operate the system that approves licences for laboratories. Read more about the release of the Inspectorate's annual report.

We’ve also established the Animal Procedures Committee (new window) (APC) to advise us on matters relating to any scientific procedures which may cause an animal pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.

Tackling animal rights extremism

Animal rights extremists have conducted a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation against the animal research industry, including targeting people at home and in their communities.

We are determined to stand up to animal rights extremism by:

  • ensuring that lawful and properly conducted research and business can take place freely in the UK by ending the threat of unlawful disruption and intimidation by animal rights extremists
  • deterring and prosecuting animal rights extremists so that they no longer pose a threat from unlawful direct action

More information about tackling animal extremism is available on the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit website (new window).

Home Office websites