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Procedure for ethical review when using animals

How we conduct the ethical review of the use of animals, their tissue or blood in research and teaching.


The overarching responsibility for ethics and ethical review rests with the University’s Ethics Committee.

It has been acknowledged that the University has a responsibility to ensure that the health and welfare of any animal used in its teaching and research is of the highest standard.

In addition, the University is committed to the 3Rs (replacement, refinement and reduction of animals in research) and has a responsibility to ensure that any such teaching and research has been considered ethically in terms of the harms and benefits, and whether there is an equally effective method of teaching and research that does not involve using a living model.

It is important to raise awareness of such ethical issues within the University and also to ensure that there is a central knowledge base of these activities.

Projects licensed by the Home Office

The University of Bath has a well-developed policy and procedures for the ethical review of the use of animals in research and teaching that are licensed by the Home Office.

This is defined by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 as amended in 2012 (ASPA). Under the ASPA, the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) is responsible for reviewing and monitoring animal research and promoting a “culture of care” within the University.

The Act is designed to protect animals used for experimental or other scientific purposes. Any experimental or scientific procedure has to be regulated under the Act if it is applied to a protected animal which may have the effect of causing that animal pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.

1) "A protected animal" for the purposes of this Act means any living vertebrate other than man and any living cephalopod.

2) Any such vertebrate in its foetal, larval or embryonic form is a protected animal only from the stage of its development when:

a) in the case of a mammal, bird or reptile, two-thirds of the gestation or incubation period for the relevant species has elapsed; and

b) in any other case, it becomes capable of independent feeding.

2A) Any living cephalopod in its embryonic form is not a protected animal.

There are various research activities that fall outside the Act. For example, the ringing, tagging or marking of an animal or the application of any other humane procedure for the sole purpose of enabling an animal to be identified, is not a regulated procedure if it causes only momentary pain or distress and no lasting harm.

Projects not requiring Home Office licensing

As the University already has an ethical review procedure for licensed animal use, it was considered good practice to build on the existing knowledge and expertise to extend this to non-licensed animal and tissue use.

In May 2010, the University introduced a new policy and set of procedures relating to the use of animals in research and teaching that are not covered by Home Office legislation. For the purposes of ethical review, these activities are described as being non-licensed. In this context, “animal” is used in the broadest context of the Animal Kingdom but excludes humans.

Various animals are or will be used in teaching and research at Bath. These include but are not restricted to:

  • Vertebrates purchased or bred for genetic studies or work on isolated tissue (Schedule 1 usage). This includes undergraduate practical classes (eg rodents and chicks)
  • Invertebrates (eg locusts, moths, slugs) which may require licensing by Defra
  • Wild or domesticated animals used for observational experiments (eg wild birds and fish in behavioural studies)
  • Various animals which are observed as examples of biodiversity in undergraduate teaching and UCAS open days (eg snakes, spiders, axolotls)
  • The use of embryos, such as chick embryos
  • All animal research and testing carried out in other countries of the world (eg wild bird migration studies)

A ‘light touch’ ethical review procedure has been established with the completion of a form that is linked to the EIRA1 form (Section 3) for use as part of the research application procedure. This form will also apply to teaching activities.

As with Home Office Project Licences, these details will be considered by members of the AWERB with regard to ethics, welfare and the 3Rs but every effort will be made to ensure that research applications are not delayed by this new process. Nonetheless researchers do have a responsibility to ensure that the ethical aspects of their research have been fully considered.

Following approval by the Chair of the AWERB, all projects will be reported to both the Biosciences Services Unit Management Committee (responsible for compliance in animal research) and the University Ethics Committee.

Document control

Owner: University Ethics Committee
Approval date: 11 May 2010
Date of last review: 8 November 2016 Approved by: University Ethics Committee

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