Research involving animals - September 2013
Statement updated September 2013
Cardiff University strongly supports the intention and purpose of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 which, under Home Office supervision, rigorously controls experimental work involving animals.
Our research in this area is almost exclusively on laboratory-bred rodents and fish and is aimed at the alleviation of human and veterinary disease through the advancement of medical, dental, biological and veterinary understanding. All animal-related research work at Cardiff is carried out under the strict conditions imposed by the Government. Wherever possible the use of animals is avoided and alternative methods employed.
University research is guided by a set of principles known as the "three Rs":
- Replacing the use of animals with alternatives where possible
- Reducing the number of animals used to a minimum
- Refining experiments to minimise any suffering.
For example Cardiff uses in vitro work which allows the replication of simple systems in a test tube or other laboratory apparatus. Imaging is another method used by Cardiff scientists which reduces the number of animals used in experimentation.
Several researchers at the University (whose work does not involve the use of animals) recently won research funding as part of the drive to find alternatives to the use of animals in research.
Each case of research using animals is subject to an ethical review process involving lay members and representatives from across the University community. The Review Process provides ethical advice on standards of animal care, welfare and accommodation and ensures that those working with animals are aware of their responsibilities and receive appropriate training. The Ethical Review Process looks for evidence of the 'three Rs' in all applications and encourages animal scientists and technicians to be constantly aware of the imperative to develop the 'three Rs' in their work.
Veterinary and animal care staff are actively involved in the ethical review of research, welfare and care of animals and provide ongoing advice and support to researchers.
Medical Advances from Animal Research
The last century has seen quite astonishing advances in the treatment and prevention of disease. Examples are the treatment of diabetes, the prevention of poliomyelitis, the elimination of smallpox, the development of antibiotics and the transplantation of kidneys. In all those examples, animal experiments were crucial; it can be said with confidence that without them we should still have to watch, without any possibility of effective intervention, the physical deterioration, and in most cases death, of those affected. Often those affected are children. There are alive now very many who, without work involving animals, would be dead.
Our understanding is increasing and many procedures that previously involved the use of animals no longer need to do so. We can expect that to continue but it remains the case that the development of many new medical treatments still depends on research involving animals. We can expect further advances in the treatment of diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and crippling joint disease.
Major medical advances that depended on animal research have included:
- Gene therapy for inherited diseases
- Modern anaesthetics
- Transplants of heart, kidneys and cornea
- Vaccine for: malaria; hepatitis; diptheria; polio meningitis; German measles; Alzheimer's disease; whooping cough; cervical cancer and avian flu
- CT scanning for improved diagnosis
- Pain prevention treatment
- Coronary bypass operations
- Drugs to control high blood pressure
- Drugs to treat ulcers, asthma and leukaemia
- Drugs for breast and prostate cancers
- Treatment for river blindness
- Combined drug therapy for HIV infection, which delays the development of AIDS
- Replacement heart valves
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections; and vaccines and drugs to control viral infections
- Insulin for people with diabetes
- Life support systems for premature babies
- Drugs preventing transplant rejection
- Developments in blood transfusion techniques - now a routine and life-saving procedure
- Hip replacement surgery
- Cardiac pacemakers
- Heart-lung machine for open heart surgery
- Broad spectrum antibiotics for infections
- Improved sutures and other surgical techniques
- Kidney dialysis
- Drugs for adult leukaemia and lymphoma
- Drugs to control mental illness and depression
- Canine distemper vaccine
- Feline leukaemia vaccine
Animals in research
In the UK, 4,110,028 animal procedures were started in 2012. Of those:
82 per cent involved rats, mice and other rodents, all purpose-bred laboratory species
Most of the remaining procedures used fish, amphibians and birds (16.2 per cent)
Fewer than 0.5 per cent of all procedures involve other animals such as dogs and non-human primates. Along with cats and horses, these species are afforded special legal protections, which state that scientists must justify why that species in particular must be used rather than, for instance a mouse or a fish.
By comparison, each year in Britain, more than one billion animals are consumed annually as food and seven million are killed as vermin (mostly rats and mice).
The annual number of animal experiments is now around the same as it was 20 years ago. This is due to higher standards of animal welfare, scientific advances and stricter controls.
Further information: www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk