University Policy on the Use of Animals in Scientific Research | University of Oxford

University Policy on the Use of Animals in Scientific Research

The University's aims

Oxford biomedical research has been at the forefront of development of innovative treatments and translational science. Oxford researchers today are involved in developing treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as cognitive disorders such as autism and depression. Oxford scientists lead fundamental research programmes that contribute to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. More broadly, Oxford scientists are recognised for their research excellence into many fundamental biological problems, including animal welfare, conservation, ecology, evolution and genetics.

Biomedical research at Oxford takes many different forms across a range of scientific disciplines and employs a range of methods including computer modelling, in vitro cell-based techniques, clinical trials in humans, and animal based research projects. The use of animals in research projects takes place only when it is necessary to replicate the complex interactions of a whole living body and there is no practical alternative. The use of animals is closely monitored and carried out according to standards and conditions set down by the licensing authority, the Home Office.

It is the policy of the University to ensure that all animal based research is undertaken in compliance with the standards set down in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, revised 2012 (ASPA), and with the requirements of the European Directive 63/2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The University is committed to minimise the use of animals in research whilst continuing to facilitate advances in science, research, and medical knowledge.  

The University's commitment

The University is committed to ensuring that all staff and students involved in animal-based research treat animals with respect and consideration. Staff and students are expected to take a proactive interest in the welfare of animals in their charge, and to ensure that all aspects of their work and research comply with the highest ethical standards. The University is further committed to pursue a policy of reduction, replacement, and refinement (3Rs) in all animal based research and to promote knowledge of the moral and legal responsibilities and a culture of care in all aspects of research.

Replacement

The University is committed to ensure animals are used in research when it has been clearly demonstrated that there is no alternative.

The University maintains this commitment by:

  • making it a requirement of applicants who wish to obtain a Home Office project licence for the use of animals to demonstrate that they have given full consideration to non-animal methods and have consulted available resources for information on alternatives;
  • promoting and informing researchers of ongoing developments in non-animal methods, such as computer modelling, cell and tissue based research,  and the use of  imaging technology;
  • promoting awareness of non-animal methods through a seminar programme sponsored by the ACER and 3Rs Committees; and
  • engaging with acknowledged experts on the replacement of animals in scientific research, through an exchange of views and dissemination of new ideas.

Reduction

The University is committed to ensuring that researchers use the minimum number of animals needed to meet their scientific objectives.

The University meets this commitment by:

  • periodically reviewing existing projects and requiring project licence holders to consider reducing numbers where appropriate;
  • promoting the use of professional statistical advice on the design and analysis of their experiments; and
  • managing breeding programmes carefully, so as to avoid or minimise surplus animals.

Refinement

The University is committed to the highest possible standards of animal care and welfare and ensuring that all staff involved in the use of animals are committed to and promote a culture of care.

The University meets this commitment by:

  • ensuring through regular reviews of projects that researchers keep abreast of new developments and techniques and apply the latest methods in their work
  • providing the best quality of care and high standard accommodation for animals that, wherever possible, exceed the standards prescribed under ASPA and the European Directive on animals in scientific research;
  • promoting awareness of best practice through education and training;
  • recognising individual achievement in the application of the 3Rs; and
  • contributing to innovation in the 3Rs, both by developing local initiatives and by encouraging participation in national working groups established by the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs) and other bodies.

The University's ethical review process

All applications for project licences that involve the use of animals for research are subject to an internal ethical review process. Project licence applications must be approved by the central ethical review committee or by one of the departmental committees before they can be endorsed and passed to the Home Office for further scrutiny.

The University is committed to maintaining a rigorous and objective process of ethical review that challenges scientists to justify their use of animals, and that requires them, where the use of animals is unavoidable, to minimise animal numbers and maximise animal welfare.

The ethical review committees undertake to:

  • review all project licence applications to ensure that ethical and welfare standards are met;
  • retrospectively review project licences at regular intervals for the duration of the project to ensure that researchers keeps pace with new developments and incorporate new techniques where applicable;
  • ensure that ethical review committee members represent a diverse range of skills and include lay members who are not involved in animal-based research;
  • include veterinary and animal care staff who play a key role in the ethical review process and contribute to the decisions made in committee; and
  • conduct a regular review of the composition and operation of ethical review committees to ensure they remain effective and meet with the requirements of A(SP)A and the EU Directive 63/2010.

Education and training

The University is committed to ensuring that all those working with animals possess the necessary skills and satisfy their responsibilities under ASPA.

The University meets this commitment by:

  • providing high-quality training for those requiring project or personal licences under ASPA, together with  refresher courses to enable them to update their skills;
  • ensuring that those working under ASPA are aware of their roles and responsibilities;
  • organising regular seminars on matters related to the 3Rs and appropriate techniques and new developments; and
  • encouraging a team approach to animal work that fosters good communication and collaboration between all those involved in the care and welfare of animals through regular meetings and discussion between researchers.

Non-human primates

The University is aware of the sensitive nature of research work that involves non-human primates. It is accepted that the use of non-human primates is likely to remain necessary for certain limited and clearly defined purposes; however, any proposal to use non-human primates will continue to receive close scrutiny in the preparation and ethical review process to determine whether the objectives could be achieved by using other species or alternative technologies. The University undertakes to reduce the use of non-human primates wherever possible to the bare minimum to achieve research outcomes and to ensure the maximum benefit to medical and research knowledge whilst ensuring the minimum cost to the animals involved.