Animals in research

Animals in research

The fundamental research carried out by the Members of The Physiological Society, that underpins many biological and clinical sciences, often requires the experimental use of animals. The Society supports both the essential use of animals in research and increased openness over such use. The Society's position statement on the use of animal in research can be found here. A more detailed document including recommendations to Society Members on dealing with this issue can be downloaded here.

Animal use numbers

The Home Office releases data annually on the number of animals used in research, and the procedures carried out on them. Analysis of this data by Understanding Animal Research can be found here.

Recent Policy activities in this area

European Citizens’ Initiative – Stop Vivisection

The Stop Vivisection European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) 2015 called for “the European Commission to abrogate directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and to present a new proposal that does away with animal experimentation”.

Under the Citizens’ Initiative programme, EU citizens propose changes in legislation to the European Commission. To warrant formal attention from the Commission, the ECI must gain one million signatures across from at least seven member states. Stop Vivisection collected 1,173,130 signatures across 26 of the EU’s 28 member states. The majority were from Italy, where anti-animal research sentiment is high. This was the third citizens' initiative to receive a public hearing at the European Parliament, and this took place on the 11 May 2015. Over 120 organisations—including The Physiological Society, other learned societies, patient groups and leading universities signed a joint statement supporting European Directive 2010/63/EU. For more information see here.

As a follow-up to this citizen’s initiative, a meeting will be held in Brussels in December 2016 “Non-Animal Approaches - The Way Forward”. One aim of the meeting is to “move towards the goal of … phasing out animal testing. See here for more information and to register attendance (free to attend). 

MP engagement

The Physiological Society view it as crucial to engage with policy-makers to help inform them about the realities of animal research. We engage actively in this area, through our strong links with the Royal Society of Biology, the RSB Animals in Science Group, and the UK Biosciences Sector Coalition. We strongly encourage Members interested in this area and who would like to engage with their MP, either to talk to them about the value of animal research or to show their MP around the laboratories they work in and explain why they use animals in research, to contact us and we will help in facilitating meetings.

Transposition of EU Directive 2010/63

The European Directive 2010/63 on the ‘Protection of Animals in Scientific Experimentation’ came into force on 1 Jan 2013 and superseded the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA) (1986). ASPA The United Kingdom then amended ASPA in 2012, to cover the provisions of the new EU Directive.

This is of direct relevance to Members of The Society, and as such, The Society was not involved in Home Office consultations on how to transpose this EU Directive into UK law, we remain actively involved with the Animals in Science Regulatory Unit of the Home Office. We actively engage with ASRU on the form and wording of new guidance notes, and other areas of direct relevance to our membership.

Concordat on Openness on Animal Research

In May 2014 the Society was please to sign the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. Since the launch of the Declaration on Openness in October 2012, The Society was actively involved in its development and maintains strong links with the Concordat host organisation, Understanding Animal Research. The Society fully supports the underlying theme of the Concordat, namely to provide the public greater opportunities to discover accurate information on the small but essential role that research using animals plays in advancing our insights into pressing issues of scientific, clinical and environmental importance.

ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments) guidelines

The Society and its journals endorse the use of the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments) guidelines, which have been developed to ensure that research publications present sufficient levels of information to enable data from animal research to be fully evaluated and utilised. Further information on the ARRIVE guidelines can be found here.



The Society, through the Policy team, responds to many formal consultations on regulation and legislation around animals in research. Our contributions to various such consultations, either in partnership with the UK Bioscience Sector Coalition, and/or the Society’s sole response can be found here