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The University of Southampton
Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body

The Use of Animals in Research and Education at the University of Southampton

The University of Southampton uses animals in both research and teaching activities. For example, animals are integral to the teaching of medical students, biologists, zoologists, ecologists and those studying conservation and environmental sciences. Additionally, a range of medical research activities involve animals.

When people think of animals and research, frequently the first thing that comes to mind is medical research and understandable concerns for the care and welfare of the animals involved. We too share such concerns and these are central to the Role of the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB).

Mice using environmental enrichment
Promoting natural behaviour by proving environmental enrichment

Medical research is undertaken at the University of Southampton, with the aim of developing treatments for human illnesses and diseases. Sometimes such research turns out to have other applications too; for example, many treatments used by veterinarians to help our pets, farm, zoo and laboratory animals have come from human focussed medical research.

In other research the main focus is to help animals. This could involve any species: insects to mammals, aquatic (sea-living) or terrestrial (land-living), wild or domesticated. Research undertaken at the University of Southampton includes studying the effects of habitat loss and providing wildlife corridors; understanding more about a particular species’ behaviour in the wild or in captivity, and investigating the impact of plastic waste and other pollutants on the small and large animals that live in our rivers and seas.

Early embryo under fluorescence
An early stage embryo viewed through a fluorescence microscope

There are several laws that cover how humans interact with animals. Some relate to working with, and doing research with animals living in the wild, whilst others relate to animals we keep. For example, UK pet owners may be aware of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) that is relevant to the care they give their pets. This law also applies to farm, zoo and laboratory animals. In respect of laboratory animals, additional UK legislation is very pertinent to the work of AWERB: the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, known as ASPA.

Where University of Southampton lead research is conducted abroad, researchers must comply with the national laws of the country.

In addition to general welfare principles, animal research legislation is based on the principle of the 3Rs, Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. Detailed information about the 3Rs is available from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research.

In brief, researchers are required to consider:

If there are effective ways of answering research questions which do not need to use animals (Replacement). If animals do have to be used, that the fewest number possible are used to provide meaningful results (Reduction), and that the methods used are the best available: those that have been refined to eliminate or reduce to the minimum any possible pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to the animal (Refinement).

You can find more information on UK legislation relating to a broad spectrum of animal-related research from the External Links page.

Whatever the aim of the research, in addition to our legal responsibilities, we as humans have a moral and ethical obligation to treat each individual animal with respect and due regard for its welfare. The University of Southampton takes this obligation seriously. The University of Southampton has a Policy on the Use of Animals in Research, has signed the UK Concordat on Openness on Research and has an active and robust Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body.

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