The University of Cambridge recognises that research using animals has made, and continues to make, a vital contribution to the understanding, treatment and cure of major human and animal disease. We realise that we must not be complacent and therefore will actively promote, investigate and use new methods of medical research that can replace animals, and will only ever use animals where these alternatives are currently not viable. Our scientists are instrumental in devising humane alternative methods to animal models that can effectively reproduce the complex biological characteristics of man and animals to challenge the need for animal use with the goal of eventually ending the use of animals in medical research.

In the UK, research with animals is governed by a range of legislation, including the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA), 1986 and, in the case of teaching to veterinary students, the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. Compliance of our research covered by this legislation is monitored by University staff, including the Named Veterinary Surgeons and by the Home Office through its Inspectors. All members of the University carrying out procedures regulated under the Act must by law have prior training, relevant experience, assessment of competence and licence authority from the Home Office. All animal research project licences are subject to robust assessment and consideration by the University Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body consisting of independent lay-members, veterinary surgeons, animal welfarists, animal care staff and academic representation from outside the animal research field. Only where a programme of animal research is necessary and justifiable by this body and with due consideration to the ‘3Rs’ (the reduction, refinement and replacement of animals in research) will it be submitted to the Home Office for assessment and processing.

To this end, we strictly adhere to the principle of law which demands that where a non-animal approach to research exists, it should be used. The principles of the ’3Rs’ underpin all related work at the University, ensuring that if animals have to be used then the numbers are minimised and that procedures, care routines and husbandry are refined and under constant review to maximise welfare.

All involved are charged with bringing to our attention, including to the highest level of management, without fear of personal negative consequence, any animal welfare concerns or issues that jeopardize our commitment to these principles and must therefore follow the University procedures for whistleblowing and escalation of concerns.

The University is committed to openness and transparency regarding our use of animals in research and will make every opportunity to deliver on our registration to the Concordat.

Where wild animals need to be observed and studied in their natural habitat, our responsibilities will extend outside of the UK legislation and country borders to ensure research in non-laboratory settings is also undertaken with full consideration to our robust ethical justification and animal welfare. University staff undertaking regulated procedures, or collaborating with scientists, abroad or at other ASPA licensed user establishments; or work performed elsewhere during sabbaticals will employ the same standards required under UK legislation.

Where no alternative exists to work involving animals of protected species, the University will adhere to high standards of humane care and treatment of those animals and adhere with all relevant laws and guidelines. Wherever possible and feasible, rehoming laboratory animals once they have been released from the controls of the Act is investigated. The University expects everyone involved in animal research to follow the Laboratory Animal Science Association (LASA) principles and guidelines and apply the use of analgesia and anaesthetic regimes together with applying a robust welfare ethos.

The key principles governing all our animal research are:

  • It is conducted only when it will contribute to the advancement of knowledge that is likely to lead to improvement of the health and welfare of animals or human beings or involves observations that will lead to a greater understanding of the animals themselves.
  • It is undertaken on the basis of well-defined scientific objectives and the advancement of knowledge, giving due consideration to the welfare of the animals, minimising the number of animals employed in each experiment and avoiding unnecessary duplication.
  • The University will actively support the development, validation and adoption of appropriate alternatives to the use of animals, in order to eliminate the need for animals in research.
  • Animals are transported, housed and cared for by dedicated and trained staff under professional supervision in a manner designed to maximise health and wellbeing of the animal, with provisions for environmental enrichment.
  • A Named Veterinary Surgeon is contactable at all times for consultation, care and attendance.
  • The University of Cambridge considers that the use of animals in research is not a right, but a responsibility that must be earned by demonstration of our commitment to achieving the highest standards of animal welfare and an ongoing commitment to replacement, reduction and refinement.

Updated July 2015