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Legislative framework for animal research in the UK
  1. Ngaire Dennison and
  2. Anja Petrie


Background: In 1986, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) replaced the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, which had up until then protected animals used for ‘vivisection’ in the UK. ASPA itself was amended in 2013 to ensure the full implementation of EU Directive 2010/63/EU, the European Union legislation ‘on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes’, which is considered to be one of the most stringent ethical and welfare standards worldwide. ASPA allows (and controls) legitimate studies using animals in a framework designed to ensure that the potential harms to the animals are justified by the likely benefits of the research. While most veterinary surgeons working in clinical situations do not set out to perform ASPA-regulated research, a desire to improve clinical outcomes for their patients or for the wider population means that, at times, they may approach or even cross the line from recognised veterinary practice into procedures or activities that require regulation under ASPA, the Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR) or other legislation.

Aim of the article: This article provides information on the legislation that exists to protect animals in research and explains how ASPA can affect all veterinary surgeons, and not just those working in research, due to its intersection with the Veterinary Surgeons Act and VMR.

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