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King's College London policy on the use of animals in scientific research

The use of animals in scientific research has made and continues to make, an essential contribution to the understanding of biological sciences and to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease in man and animals. Examples include organ transplantation, heart disease, mental illness and the development of vaccines

At the same time, there have been significant advances in the development of alternatives that have either replaced the use of animals, or reduced the numbers used. Examples include the use of computer modelling systems and tissue culture. However, despite the continuing development of alternatives there remains a need to use some animals in order to take forward biomedical sciences.

King's College London, like other Centres of Excellence, has an extensive programme of medical, dental and biological research. Results of research from the university, and the associated Hospitals, have brought about advances in knowledge of the normal function of the human body, have helped to maintain human health and established improved methods to prevent and treat diseases. Members of the university publish the results of their research widely in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In the UK, the use of living animals in scientific research is controlled by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986; the Home office is the responsible Government department. Any establishment that wishes to undertake scientific research involving living animals must meet and maintain the strict requirements laid down by the Home Office. The care and welfare of animals is of the highest concern, and the College has staff dedicated to ensuring that exemplary standards are maintained. In addition there are frequent unannounced inspections of the facilities by Home Office Inspectors.

There is a significant biomedical research programme within King’s College London, funded by grants from various sources including the Medical Research Council, the British Biotechnology Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the British Heart Foundation and other charitable bodies, and from industrial sponsors. A minority of these research projects involve the use of living animals and must meet the university’s requirements before they can be authorised.

All research projects that involve the use of living animals are reviewed within the College by a Committee for the Review of Ethics and Welfare. In reviewing such applications the following issues are considered in detail:

  • That the applicant has considered the use of non-living animal methodologies e.g. computer modelling, tissue culture, and can provide evidence as to why these techniques are not able to address all the issues raised in the research project
  • That the research will help to advance knowledge and understanding in the field of biomedical science
  • That the animals intended for use are the appropriate species, and that the minimum number of animals will be used in order to meet the objectives of the programme of work
  • That every effort has been made to minimise, or possibly avoid, the potential adverse effects of the procedures on the animals. This may be achieved by a number of means, including modification to the animal’s husbandry and use of painkillers and/or anaesthetics.

Only once these issues have been considered and the work justified, will the application be formally submitted to the Home Office by the university. The decision as to whether a licence is granted for the work is made by the Secretary of State.

All staff involved with scientific research must adhere to the highest standards of animal care and welfare. All members of the university who carry out experimental procedures involving animals require a licence from the Home Office, and must have undergone formal training prior to applying for the licence.

The university is committed to a policy of ensuring that animals used for research are purpose bred. All animals in the university are inspected daily by a competent person. Veterinary care and advice is available at all times.

King’s College London is committed to a policy of ‘reduction, refinement and replacement’ in respect of use of animals in research. Examples include reducing the number of animals used in studies, refining experimental procedures to minimise the effects on animals, and replacement by use of techniques or methods that do not require animals. Moreover, university staff has made significant contributions in this area over recent years and have published their results and contributions in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

For further information, please see the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.