Laboratory animals

People often disagree on whether animal experiments are necessary, useful or justified, and to what extent non-animal alternatives are available. We believe that every area of animal use should be judged individually, and that replacing the use of animals with humane alternatives must be the main goal.

Areas of animal use

Laboratory animals are used in several different settings, including:

  • Medicine - developing and testing medicines and vaccines for humans or animals  
  • Research - studying how animal and human bodies function 
  • Safety testing - assessing the safety of chemicals, such as pesticides, for their possible effects on human health or the environment. 

Lab animals in the UK

It's estimated that more than 100 million animals are used in experiments each year across the world. Attitudes to animals, and the legislation in place regarding their use and welfare, vary widely between countries. 

In the UK, the use of animals in experiments is regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 - which is administered by the Animals in Science Regulation Unit of the Home Office. 

Under this law, all breeding and use of animals has to be carried out in licensed premises. The research itself has to be set out in a project licence application, which is submitted to the Home Office for authorisation, and the people carrying out the research also have to be licensed.

Our view on lab animals

We believe that the necessity and justification for using animals should always be critically reviewed and that everything possible must be done to speed up the development of humane alternatives. Until then, every possible step should be taken to reduce the numbers of animals used, and to significantly reduce their suffering and improve their welfare.

For updates on our work to help lab animals, general news and views relating to animal experiments follow us on Twitter: @RSPCA_LabAnimal

Our statement on MBR Acres

We've received a large number of calls and emails from people concerned about the welfare of the beagles at MBR Acres...

May 2022

A large number of people have contacted us about MBR Acres, an establishment that is licensed by the Government to breed beagles who will be used in research and testing. It's upsetting to think of animals being bred and used for this purpose, and we want to use this opportunity to clarify our position, how animal breeding and use is regulated, and what actions we can feasibly take.

We're deeply concerned about the use and potential suffering of any animal in research and testing, and we are opposed to experiments that cause animals pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. We care about all animals equally, but it can be especially upsetting to see animals like dogs, who are often much-loved members of the family, bred for research.

Our principal goal is the ending of harmful experiments through a complete replacement of animal experiments with humane alternatives.

Our widely respected team engages directly with people involved in the regulation, care and use of animals in laboratories in the UK and internationally, to help achieve our key priority of securing a global commitment to replace animal research and testing. We challenge the demand for lab animals, rather than the supply, because for as long as there are requirements for animal experiments, breeders will continue to operate. Closing down facilities like this is unlikely to happen and won't result in an end to the breeding of these dogs as they would simply be bred elsewhere. This is why we take a pragmatic approach in our work on this issue.

We can't prevent the breeding or use of animals for experiments, as this is legal in the UK and elsewhere around the world, and is regulated by the Home Office via the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). MBR Acres is one of 137 UK establishments licensed under the ASPA, including universities, pharmaceutical companies, and breeders. These should all comply with the Home Office Code of Practice for housing and care.

At a grassroots level, as a charity, our inspectors have no statutory powers or authority over establishments such as this, so we don't have the authority to inspect the premises. The Government's Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU) is responsible for visiting, inspecting and auditing establishments to make sure they comply with the standards set out by law.

Report illegal acts of animal cruelty to the police

If anyone believes they have evidence that people are performing illegal acts of cruelty, they should report this to the police. Our inspectors are unable to deal with reports about this or other establishments that breed, supply or use lab animals, which are regulated by the Home Office, so please don't call our national cruelty line. We receive a call every 30 seconds and you could prevent a call getting through about an animal our animal rescue team is able to help.

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