Research Involving Animals – Division of Biomedical Services

Open response to PETA UK Universities campaign

We believe that the use of some animals in biomedical research is essential if we are to advance human health. However, we do not take the decision lightly. We only use animals when they are absolutely necessary, and the research is likely to result in significant advances in biomedical knowledge or therapy development. Animals are only used after a rigorous ethical review process and we always use as few as animals as possible.

Our focus is on compassion and care for the animals. We use skilled and well-trained animal care and technical staff. The vast majority of the procedures performed on our animals (around 97%) are classified by the Home Office as mild. This means there is little or no deviation from normal behaviour (including little pain or suffering).

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 ensures that our work is independently monitored by the Home Office, as well as by our own internal systems, to minimise any pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to the animals. Further information relating to the legislation that we work under can be found on Gov.UK.

The 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) are guiding principles for our animal-based research. We are committed and active in trying to find alternatives to the use of animals, and to refining our methods where possible to reduce the impact on the animals.

When an alternative method is available, the University is legally required to use it. However, we are not yet at the point where alternative techniques can entirely replace the need for animals in research. Some physiological processes or disease states can only be reproduced in the complex system that is a living being. We do valuable research in the areas of stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack), neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer metastasis and none of these can be fully and accurately reproduced outside of the body.

Nevertheless, we make considerable efforts to find new ways to investigate these conditions that do not make use of animals. We support a staff position at the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) that is shared with two other universities across the Midlands, and whose sole role is to scrutinise our work with animals, and suggest and oversee new 3Rs initiatives. University of Leicester staff have won awards from the NC3Rs two years running for new refinements. Our animal use this year has been almost half of what it was two years ago and we continue to strive to reduce this.

The University is proud of its openness about the use of animals in its research and has been praised nationally for its approach. We will make the strongest efforts to reduce the number of animals used in biomedical research while driving necessary advances in human health.

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