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Animals in research

Animals in research

In order to to conduct world-leading research, it is sometimes necessary for animals to be involved. Our research involving animals is undertaken with the highest standards of animal care and is only conducted when there are no feasible alternatives.

At the University of Exeter, some research involving animals is conducted in the fields of animal behaviour and cognition, ecology and conservation, ecotoxicology, immunology and neuroscience.

Our policy is to minimise the involvement of animals in research wherever possible.

Where research involving animals is necessary, the University conducts fieldwork to the highest professional standards, and where the research is conducted on University premises, provides housing and care that equals or exceeds legal requirements.

We are committed to ensuring an excellent culture of care when conducting research with animals, which is underpinned by the principles of the ‘3Rs' – reduction, refinement and replacement. The University of Exeter endorse the ARRIVE guidelines

All projects involving any animal are reviewed by Ethics Committees whose members include experts in animal welfare.

Every researcher at the University of Exeter working with animals is required to meet the highest ethical and methodological standards and to adhere to the strict legislation in place in the UK to safeguard animal welfare.

These dedicated web pages provide helpful information about research involving animals, both in general terms and at the University.

The official University of Exeter policy on the involvement of animals in research can be ‌found here Policy on working with animals


The University of Exeter is committed to high standards of animal welfare, and we continue to invest in our facilities.

Where research requires animals to be held at the University, we house them in suitable environments, ensuring that they have opportunities to exhibit natural behaviours, looking after their psychological well-being, and keeping them in good physical health.

The University has well-defined work programmes to ensure that these requirements are met, and relevant laws and guidelines are strictly adhered to. Our overriding considerations are that:

  • Research on animals 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 and/or human beings, or provide a better understanding of the animals themselves.
  • The University conducts studies involving animals on the basis of well-defined scientific objectives, giving due consideration to the welfare of the animals, minimising the number of animals employed in each test, and avoiding unnecessary duplication.
  • All animals obtained by the University for research purposes are subject to inspection and approval by the University Veterinary Surgeon, and all animals that are protected under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 are purpose bred at establishments licensed by the Home Office.

Field studies on farm and wild animals or studies involving non-protected species are conducted within relevant legislative requirements and governance structures are in place to ensure that appropriate standards are met.

Animals are transported, housed and cared for by dedicated and trained staff under professional supervision in a manner designed to ensure the best health and well-being of the animal, with provisions for environmental enrichment.

Members of the veterinary profession are available at all times for consultation, care and attendance.

All animals are checked frequently by animal technicians, who are specialists in the care of animals. They are trained in correct animal handling and to recognise signs of pain, distress and disease.


Animal research in the UK is strictly regulated, and compliance with regulations is monitored by regular unannounced Home Office inspections.

All projects involving animals, the researchers carrying it out, and the institution itself, must each by licensed by the Home Office.

Researchers must meet compulsory training standards before they are allowed to carry out research on animals. It is illegal to use an animal in an experiment if there is a suitable alternative.

The laws on research involving the use of animals are set out in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, or ASPA, which was most recently updated in 2012.

The Home Office enforces the law, including regulations on housing, environment, welfare, care, and health.

Home Office inspectors often work with researchers to refine their experiments at the application stage, minimising the number of animals used, replacing them where possible and refining experiments to minimise any potential suffering.

Permission to work with animals is granted by the Home Office by licence only under very specific conditions. The Home Office also has an inspection system to ensure that rules are not violated.

You can also view the Home Office information about the regulations governing research using animals.

Application procedures

Please contact the University’s Home Office Liaison Officer for information on licensing under ASPA.


The University of Exeter promotes the principles of the 3Rs – reduction, refinement and replacement of animal models. Where the use of animals is unavoidable, appropriate steps are taken to minimise their discomfort.

The University is committed to ensuring all those involved in animal-based research (scientists, veterinary surgeons and animal technicians) are pro-active in pursuing the replacement, reduction and refinement of animal use (the 3Rs), engage fully in the ethical review process, and fulfil their moral and legal responsibilities for the care and welfare of animals.


We are committed to ensuring animals are used only when there is no alternative by:

• Requiring applicants for project licences (licences issued by the Home Office authorising the use of animals in a programme of research) to demonstrate that they have given full consideration to non-animal methods and have consulted the information on alternatives available on the web.
• Promoting awareness of non-animal methods through its teaching and seminar programmes. And
• Engaging with outside experts on the replacement of animals in scientific research, to exchange views and explore new ideas.


We are committed to ensuring that researchers use the minimum number of animals needed to meet their scientific objectives by:

• Reviewing regularly the numbers of animals used under individual project licences and asking for reductions, where appropriate.
• Providing researchers with professional statistical advice on the design and analysis of their experiments. And
• Managing breeding programmes carefully, so as to avoid or minimise surplus animals.


We are committed to achieving the highest possible standards of animal care and welfare and to ensuring that all those involved in the use of animals practise a culture of care by:

• Requiring researchers to apply the most refined methods in their work at all times and to keep pace with new developments.
• Providing the best possible standards of care and accommodation that, wherever possible, exceed the standards prescribed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
• Promoting awareness of best practice through education and training.