Research involving animals is not undertaken lightly. It's governed by strict laws in the UK and these laws ensure that research involving animals is only used when there is no alternative. Researchers are also legally required to involve the smallest number of animals and take every step possible to minimise distress.
- Animals are given due respect and care by all who look after, handle or perform experiments upon them.
- Animals live in specially designed housing where they are kept as comfortable as possible. By law, researchers must work to minimise the suffering of animals in laboratories. This might be by using analgesia or anaesthetic to alleviate pain during or after a procedure.
- There are strict guidelines about the conditions that animals are kept in to make sure their environment meets their needs. For example, the temperature, lighting and noise levels are all controlled to keep the animal comfortable. Animals must have correctly sized housing to avoid overcrowding and have access to ample food and water, and bedding and toys if appropriate.
- Stress must be minimised during handling, restraint and training.
- All animals are looked after by highly trained staff who maintain a 'culture of care'. They work in collaboration with researchers so that care can be adjusted accordingly.
- The research must be carried out by licensed people at licensed premises, which are regularly checked by government inspectors, who are all doctors or vets, to ensure that high welfare standards are applied.
- Vets are always on call to advise on animal health and well-being.
- Humane endpoints are continually reviewed to ensure animals do not suffer unduly. It is now considered unacceptable, in almost all cases, to use death as an endpoint. Euthanasia is carried out by specially trained staff.
The UK has strict laws for animal research and these are enforced by the Home Office. All animal research has to be approved by an ethics panel. They must agree that the work is necessary, that the animals are being cared for correctly and that the potential benefits are worthwhile.
Explore more about animals in research
You can take virtual tours of the facilities at some of the institutions that use animals in research.
Please note: the MND Association doesn't necessarily currently fund research carried out at these institutions, but these tours illustrate how animals are cared for in a research environment.