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Only a small percentage of medical and biological research involves the use of animals. That part remains vital, however, to further the development of treatments or cures for medical conditions that blight or destroy the lives of humans - and animals. The College's statement of its policy on animal use is available via the Central Secretariat with further information regarding animal use at Imperial available through the Animal Research pages. Points to note are:
- It is unethical to conduct poor quality research on animal subjects. Researchers should therefore ensure that all such research is properly designed and conducted.
- All biomedical research must comply with both the letter and the spirit of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) - widely viewed as the most rigorous piece of legislation of its type in the world - which regulates any experimental or other scientific procedure applied to a protected animal that may have the effect of causing that animal pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm (a regulated procedure). The overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with the provisions of ASPA is held by the Certificate Holder, a representative of the governing authority of the College. This position is currently held by the Provost.
- Before any regulated procedure is carried out it must be part of a programme specified in a project licence and carried out only by a person holding an appropriate personal licence. Applications for the grant of a project or personal licence are made to the Secretary of State for the Home Office.
- No application for a project licence can be made to the Home Office until it has been reviewed by the College's Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). AWERB includes members who are vets, animal care staff and lay people (some of whom are independent of the College), and scrutinises all project proposals for scientific and ethical justification of animal use. The Committee also provides information and advice about ethical analysis, best practice in animal welfare and new developments in techniques that avoid animal use. This is in line with the aim of the AWERB to develop initiatives leading to the widest possible application of the 3Rs: Replacement (of animals with non-sentient alternatives), Reduction (in animal numbers) and Refinement (of techniques to minimise pain and suffering).
- A personal licence is the Home Secretary's endorsement that the holder is a suitable and sufficiently competent person to carry out specified regulated procedures. Personal licensees assume primary responsibility for the welfare of the animals on which they perform regulated procedures. All new applicants for personal licences are required to complete an appropriate Home Office approved training course. The Central Biomedical Services (CBS) training unit provides these accredited training courses on a monthly basis.
Please note also that:
- All research must comply with the CBS protocols relating to Health and Safety Legislation.
- No-one is permitted to work within CBS facilities unless they have been satisfactorily screened by the Occupational Health Department for Allergy to Laboratory Animals.
- Heads of Department/ Divisions/ Project Leaders/ CBS must ensure that all staff are aware of the relevant protocols, SOPs and risk assessments.
- ASPA has recently been revised to transpose European Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The revised legislation came into force on 1 January 2013. A consolidated version of ASPA for guidance is available from the Home Office website. This document is not a definitive statement of the law.