St George’s maintains the highest standards and only conducts animal research when it leads to health benefits for people across the world.
Animal research and ethics at St George's
Most biomedical research at St George’s involves a wide range of alternative non-animal methods, including computer modelling, tissue culture, cell and molecular biology, and human clinical trials.
However, research using animals has made, and continues to make, a vital contribution to the understanding, treatment and cure of a range of major 21st century health problems in humans and animals. These include drug treatment and therapies for serious and terminal illnesses such as cancer, tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s and HIV/AIDS.
In 2014 St George's signed the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research in the UK. The Concordat has been signed by 74 scientific organisations and aims to provide greater public understanding of the use of animals in research through information, presentation and discussion
Animal research FAQ
Our FAQ aims to answer some of the most common questions about animal research at St George's. If you have any further queries, please contact us.
Which animals do you use?
Most research requiring the use of animals at St George's uses rodents and fish. These animals are specially bred for use in research and are not taken from the wild. There are cared for under strict conditions and their welfare is paramount. We also use rabbits on some occasions and on rare occasions we have used pigs.
Do you use primates in research?
No, we do not use primates, i.e. monkeys, chimpanzees or any other such animal, and we never have.
Why use animals at all?
New methods have enabled scientists and medical researchers to reduce work involving animals, but some work must continue for further advances in health and medicines to be made. Animals are only used in research at St George’s where there are no alternatives.
We aim to act in accordance with the guidelines suggested by FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments), who promote non-animal methods where possible.
More information about more about animal research in the UK is available on the Understanding Animal Research website.
How many animals do you use?
Animals used for procedures under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986:
Guinea pigs: 9
How are the animals looked after?
A dedicated team of animal technicians look after livestock at St George's.
Together with an Animal Welfare Officer and Veterinary Surgeon, they work to provide the animals with comfortable and enriched accommodation. This is coupled with a high standard of care that meets the strict legal framework defined by the Animals (Scientific procedures) Act 1986, amended 2012.
Whilst appreciating that the animals are there for medical advancement, care is taken to provide the 'five freedoms' wherever possible. These are:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst – good quality feed and water with diet variation where possible
- Freedom from discomfort – clean, good quality bedding and excellent environmental conditions with additional enrichment (such as toys and opportunities to retreat and nest)
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease – animals are checked daily by a trained animal care staff for signs of ill-health and appropriate treatment is given if required
- Freedom to express normal behaviour – space, socially grouping animals where possible, appropriate furniture in animal enclosures
- Freedom from fear and distress – excellent handling with accommodation away from predators
Where this is not possible, because of scientific investigation, St Georges is firmly committed to the '3Rs' as recommended by the NC3Rs (National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research).
What rules govern the research?
Licences are only granted when there are no non-animal alternatives, and are assessed by weighing the benefits of the proposed research project against the likely cost to the animals’ wellbeing.
In line with Home Office requirements, no project will go ahead without the scrutiny and approval of St George’s Animal Welfare Committee, members of which include lay representatives, scientists, animal care staff and a veterinarian.
The Home Office, through the Scientific Procedures Inspectorate, undertakes regular inspections to ensure that the terms of the licences are being adhered to and that animal husbandry and welfare is maintained.
Do you need to use animals in the future?
St George’s is firmly committed to the ‘3Rs’:
- to use the minimum number of animals (Reduction);
- to use alternatives wherever possible (Replacement);
- to strive for the highest possible standard of animal care, use and welfare (Refinement).
More information on the 3Rs is available on the NC3Rs (National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research) website.
St George’s supports and endorses the ARRIVE guidelines, developed as part of an initiative which includes a 20-point checklist of the essential information that should be included in all publications reporting animal research, with the aim of improving the design, analysis and reporting of animal research.
Other useful links
- RSPCA laboratory animal research resources
- Laboratory Animal Science Association (LASA)
- Institute of Animal Technology - the professional body our technicians who work with animals belong to