This week marks key anniversaries in animal welfare for laboratory animals in the UK. It is 140 years since animal research was first regulated in the UK, and 30 years since the current UK legislation, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, was established.
Laws and regulation are rarely interesting enough to merit celebration, so what's important about this anniversary? Well both these Acts, particularly the 1986 Act, have had significant impact on UK research, allowing the UK to grow as a world leader in biological and medical science, whilst ensuring it also leads the way in animal welfare and alternative technologies.
The Act enshrined key principles of good animal research into law, including that animals can only be used when there is no alternative, if the likely benefits of the research are judged to outweigh the likely harms, and at an establishment with appropriate facilities to ensure animal welfare, including a responsible vet.
These principles continue to underlie animal research today. So whilst research using animals continue to play a necessary and important role in the discovery and development of new medicines, this research is underpinned by good welfare, and seeking to replace and reduce the use of animals wherever possible.