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Regulation and ethics

All animal research in the UK is governed by the UK’s Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). 

Fish used for research

This law is regulated and enforced by the Home Office. Animal experiments are only allowed when there are no non-animal alternatives available, and when the expected benefits from the research outweigh the adverse effects to the animals. Queen Mary also follows the guiding principles of EU Directive 2010/63. 

The highest ethical standards

At Queen Mary, we strive for excellence both in our research and in our ethical standards.

Our policy is to ensure that all animal welfare complies with, and where possible exceeds, the provisions set out by the law. This includes some research that is not covered by the legislation - for example, research that involves observing animals, such as the study of the social hierarchies and behaviours of naked mole rats.
As part of our commitment to the highest ethical standards of animal research, Queen Mary is also a signatory to the following agreements:

Find out more about how we care for our animals


Animal welfare and ethical considerations are at the heart of our animal research
— Professor Tim Warner, Chair of the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body

Home Office licences

Any institution or individual who wants to undertake any procedure involving animals must apply to the Home Office for licences to do so, under the terms of APSA.

There are three licences that correlate to three main levels of responsibility:

  1. The Establishment Licence Holder has overall responsibility for ensuring that all animal research complies with the law. They are directly accountable to the Home Office. The Establishment Licence Holder endorses all institutional applications for new project licences before submitting them to the Home Office for approval.
  2. The Project Licence Holders account to the Establishment Licence Holder and are responsible to the Home Office for the design and conduct of their programmes of work, ensuring that they follow best welfare practice and comply fully with any conditions of the licence.
  3. Personal Licence Holders report to the Project Licence Holders. They have the main responsibility for the welfare of the animals on which they carry out regulated procedures as part of their research. This includes responsibility for preventing or minimising suffering before, during and after all experimental procedures, including surgery.

All animal research must take place in suitable facilities with access to veterinary care.

Home Office licensing structure, showing hierarchy of reponsibility
Home Office licensing structure, showing hierarchy of reponsibility

Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB)

By law, all new projects involving animals have to undergo ethical review.

This is carried out by Queen Mary’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB), which is chaired by Professor Tim Warner.

‘Named’ persons

In addition to the AWERB, there are also a number of ‘Named’ people who have specific legal duties and responsibilities in relation to the welfare and care of animals within the university.

These include a Named Veterinary Surgeon, a Named Care and Welfare Officer, a Named Training and Competency Officer and the contact person responsible for Home Office liaison. All of these people report to the Queen Mary Establishment Licence Holder and the Home Office (see diagram).

These named individuals are also members of the AWERB, and interact on a local basis with staff and researchers performing animal studies.

The Home Office make regular unannounced visits to all places at Queen Mary where animal research is conducted, and our Named Veterinary Surgeon is on call 24 hours a day, in addition to making frequent advisory visits.

If any member of staff has any concerns about animal welfare, there is a whistleblowing process where these issues can be reported to the Establishment Licence Holder. This can be achieved with the whistleblower remaining anonymous.

Research conducted on behalf of Queen Mary with international collaborators, or within other non-UK facilities, must meet the strict requirements of the Queen Mary’s AWERB. Due diligence visits are undertaken to overseas establishments where this is considered necessary by the AWERB.


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