1. In the UK, all use of live animals in scientific research is governed, through the registration of premises and facilities by an establishment licence and through the granting of project and personal licences under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Recently, this Act was revised to transpose European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The revised legislation came into force on 1 January 2013 and herein will be termed ASPA. For the purpose of this code, ‘animals’ will be as defined in ASPA. “European Directive 2010/63 and the amended ASPA require that comprehensive project evaluation, taking into account ethical considerations associated with the use of animals, forms the core of project authorisation, and require the implementation of the principles of replacement, reduction and refinement (the 3Rs) in those projects. Furthermore, the principles of the 3Rs also extend to the breeding, accommodation and care of protected animals.” Of central importance is the harm-benefit analysis of the project, undertaken by the Inspectorate, “to assess whether the harm to the animals in terms of suffering, pain and distress is justified by the expected outcome taking into account ethical considerations, and may ultimately benefit human beings, animals or the environment” (Article 38 of EU Directive 2010/63/EU).
2. Compliant with the ASPA, the University is required to have in place an Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). This is a local framework acting to promote a “culture of care” within the establishment by raising awareness of animal welfare and the 3Rs, supporting staff and providing a forum for the discussion and development of ethical advice. The minimum requirements are one Named Veterinary Surgeon (NVS), one Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer (NACWO) and a scientific member. The University AWERB has a wider membership which includes a lay member. All project licence applications are assessed by the AWERB prior to submission to the Inspectorate to ensure that the harm-benefit analysis has been addressed and the 3Rs implemented. It is a requirement of ASPA that animals are not used if there is an alternative scientifically satisfactory method or testing strategy available. Researchers who do not comply with the provisions of the Act may be subject to internal disciplinary measures in addition to any sanctions imposed by the Home Office.
3. The Biosciences Services Unit (BSU), which houses experimental animals, and the practices within are overseen by the AWERB, the BSU Management Committee and the BSU Operational Group. The Operational Group address structure, staffing and finance and report to the BSU Management Committee. As charged by the Act, the AWERB report directly to the Establishment Licence Holder who chairs the BSU Management Committee; this Committee is responsible for compliance and regulation including the dissemination of legal requirements and the monitoring of project licences, whether new or amended. A yearly audit of project licences is required, which are considered in detail by the AWERB, submitted to the BSU Management Committee and subsequently to the University Ethics Committee.
4. The University has a further committee with an area of responsibility for animal experimentation:
- Genetic Modification Safety Committee (GMSC)
The main responsibility of the Genetic Modification Safety Committee is to advise those carrying out genetic modifications on the health and safety aspects, in accordance with the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations 2014. The Committee is responsible for assessing risks prior to the commencement of any new research project involving genetic modification. Appropriate forms for submitting project details to the Committee can be obtained from the Wiki pages of the GMSC.
5. The following code of conduct must be observed by all researchers engaging in experimentation involving animals:
a) thought should be given to the implementation of the 3Rs in any new experimental design;
b) all relevant permissions, licences and approvals should be obtained from the appropriate internal committees and external agencies prior to the commencement of the project;
c) high standards should be set for the care and welfare of experimental animals and experimental techniques should be designed to minimise distress to the animals;
d) humane techniques should be employed for euthanasing experimental animals.
6. Researchers who do not comply with this code of conduct jeopardise the reputation of the University and may be subject to disciplinary measures.
Approval date: 8 May 2007
Date of last review: 8 November 2016
Approved by: Ethics Committee