Use of animals in research

BVA supports a rigorous system of controls on scientific work on living animals and the principle of the Three Rs:

  • Replace
  • Refine
  • Reduce

BVA position

The responsible use of animals in research has improved human and animal welfare through the advancement of scientific knowledge and the development of safer and more effective medicines. However, animals should only be used in research when no non-animal alternative is available and the work is justified through independent ethical scrutiny. The BVA supports the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which introduced a rigorous system of controls on scientific work on living animals.

The Act requires the licensing of any experiment or other scientific procedure carried out on living animals which may cause them pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. Licences under the Act may only be issued after careful consideration and balancing of the potential benefits of undertaking the research against the likely adverse effects to the animals concerned. The care and welfare of the animals involved should be the prime consideration at all times.

The veterinary profession has a legal and ethical duty to care for animals used in research and BVA endorses the requirements under the regulations for researchers to seek and act upon veterinary advice in the planning and conduct of procedures on animals. 'Named Veterinary Surgeons' operate in every research facility in the UK to ensure the highest possible standards of care and welfare for all animals used in research.

BVA respects the intrinsic value and sentience of animals and continues to support the traditional principles of the Three Rs:

  • living animals are replaced with non-sentient alternatives whenever possible
  • scientific procedures are refined so as to reduce the pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm caused to the absolute minimum consistent with achieving the scientific objectives
  • the number of animals used is reduced to the minimum needed for scientific validity

BVA activity

In March 2013 BVA's Ethics and Welfare Group (EWG) and the Laboratory Animals Veterinary Association (LAVA) submitted a joint response to the Home Office’s consultation on its review of the guidance on the operation of the amended Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act.

In May 2013, BVA, LAVA and Association of Veterinarians in Industry (AVI) submitted a shared response to the Home Office consultation on a new draft code of practice for use of animals in scientific procedures.

BVA, AVI and LAVA were unable to support the latest draft code of practice and proposed that it should be comprehensively reviewed and expanded in order to ensure it is fit for purpose and assists with compliance

In January 2012 BVA highlighted concerns about the Home Office's consultation on a draft code of practice and transposition of the regulations, as part of a joint BVA and LAVA response.

BVA has previously produced:

  • a policy brief which provides an overview of the situation in the UK including systems of control and licence structures, an ethical review, administration and inspection information and roles and duties of named veterinary surgeons
  • a policy brief on the relevance of research and development to the veterinary profession.
  • submitted a joint response in September 2011 to the Home Office consultation on the protection of animals in research with LAVA and EWG.

ARRIVE guidelines

Where appropriate, BVA considers reporting of research should follow the ARRIVE guidelines. The Animal Research:Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines were developed as part of a National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) initiative to improve the design and reporting of biomedical research using animals. The guidelines are currently endorsed by over 300 journals (including Vet Record), major funding bodies and a growing list of learned societies.


Further information