Research involving the use of animals

The University of Leicester is committed to high quality research and teaching. Research conducted at the University includes work which contributes to the furthering of knowledge of the biological and chemical mechanisms by which life originates and is sustained and reproduced. This research has made, and continues to make, a vital contribution to the understanding, treatment and cure of a range of health problems and diseases including cancer, heart diseases, kidney diseases, meningitis, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Much of this research can be carried out using non-animal methods and materials, such as computer models and in-vitro technologies and this is done wherever possible. Whilst it is acknowledged that the animal model is not a perfect model for humans the use of animals in biomedical research remains essential, for example to gain a knowledge and understanding of some cell structures and physiological and pathological processes. Alternative techniques cannot always reproduce the complexity of a living creature. Sometimes animals must be used to assess the safety and efficacy of radical new treatment regimes and for further fundamental advances to be made. The University supports the view that good science is equated with humane science. Many of the developments achieved through the use of animals have also benefited animals, helping them to live longer and healthier lives.

The University’s use of animals in research is guided by the following principles:

  • Animals are only used in research programs where there are no alternatives. The minimum number of animals consistent with the objectives of the research is used and the animals are housed in optimal conditions.
  • The University is committed to the principles of Reduction, Refinement and Replacement (3Rs). It ensures that the number of animals used is minimised.
  • All work under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) involving animals is carried out under licences issued by the Home Office. Licences are issued after a detailed harm benefit analysis has been undertaken of the potential benefits of the work compared with the possible adverse effects on the animals.
  • All work that is not covered under ASPA receives internal scrutiny to ensure a robust harm benefit analysis.
  • The University’s use of animals is scrutinised by an ethical review process which includes lay representation (including members external to the University).
  • The Ethical Review Process assesses all new licence applications, reviews the progress on licences that have been approved by the Home Office and monitors and inspects the standards of animal care, welfare and accommodation within the University. The Process checks that those working with animals are aware of their responsibilities and receive appropriate training.
  • The University is committed to maintaining high standards of laboratory animal housing and care and believes this makes a vital contribution to the quality of the research. The animal facilities comply with all national laws, guidelines and Code of Practice and the University regards these standards as a minimum. Home Office Inspectors visit regularly, often unannounced, to check that the projects and the animal care facilities meet statutory requirements.
  • The results of research which has involved the use of animals is regularly published to advance knowledge, disseminate good practice and minimise the requirement for other scientists to undertake similar work elsewhere.
  • Scientists, technicians and veterinarians who deal with the animals on a daily basis care about the wellbeing of animals. All staff involved in animal research are trained to standards which are approved by recognised professional bodies and which adhere to national standards. The University supervises all staff appropriately and provides suitable facilities so that staff can carry out their duties responsibly and humanely. Named Veterinary Surgeons (NVS) are available at all times for advice and help on the welfare of animals and the conduct of research.
  • The University is committed to a Culture of Care that extends beyond consideration of animal experimentation alone and ensures animals and those caring for them are treated with compassion, empathy and respect.

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