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Frequently asked questions

Why do we need animal research?

Research involving animals, which only occurs in cases where there are no suitable alternative options available, plays a fundamental role in science – from saving and improving the lives of millions of people through the understanding of disease and creation of medicines; to boosting animal health through enhanced veterinary procedures and the production of drugs and vaccines. The purpose of using animals in research is to: advance scientific understanding, develop solutions to medical problems, and protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.

At the University of Stirling, we use animals in a small proportion of our research. The University conducts regulated research with one group of animals (fish) protected under the UK Government’s Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013). This research, led by our world-leading Institute of Aquaculture, is vital in our quest to tackle major global problems of food security, conservation, social, economic and environmental sustainability.

For more information on animal research, visit the Understanding Animal Research website.

Do you test cosmetics on any animal?

No. Cosmetic testing involving animals is illegal in the UK.

What type of research do you do using animals?

We conduct a wide range of research at the University of Stirling. Most fish are used in research to improve farming practices, including diet and husbandry systems. Therefore, we have to use near commercial size populations of fish. In these larger studies, there is minimal or no suffering for the animal.

We also conduct research to help control and prevent fish diseases.

What animals does the University of Stirling use in procedures?

The University conducts research with one group of animals (fish) protected under the UK Government’s Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013). This research, led by our world-leading Institute of Aquaculture, is vital in our quest to tackle major global problems of food security, conservation, social, economic and environmental sustainability.

The Institute of Aquaculture uses the following finfish in its research: Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta), zebrafish (Danio rerio), Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus, Oreochromis karongae, Oreochromis mossambicus, and Oreochrimis niloticus), lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) and Catfish (Clarias gariepinus).

How many animals are involved in University of Stirling research each year?

The number of animals involved in University of Stirling research fluctuates, depending on the number and type of research projects conducted over the year. The University only conducts animal research where there are no suitable alternatives and, in line with best practice guidelines, annually publishes the number of animals used in research.

Much of our research is conducted to improve farming practices and, therefore, has to use near commercial size populations of fish. In these larger studies, there is minimal or no suffering for the animal.

In 2018, the University of Stirling used 8,112 fish in procedures regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013) a reduction from 9,209 in 2017. For context, across all UK research institutions in 2018, there were 514,340 fish involved in regulated procedures.

How is the decision made/approved to use animals in research?

Under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013), animals can only be used in research where no suitable alternatives are available. Three licences are required before research involving animals is permitted:

  • An establishment licence for the place at which the work is carried out
  • A project licence, which details and justifies the programme of work
  • A personal licence for each person carrying out procedures on animals

The University’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) considers all research proposals involving animals in any way and provides ethical advice on standards of animal care, welfare and accommodation. They also ensure compliance with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013); the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement; and the NC3Rs ARRIVE guidelines.

For more information, see our Law, licences and the three ‘Rs’ and AWERB pages.

How are the animals cared for?

All animals (fish) at the University of Stirling are housed and cared for by an expert team within our world-leading Institute of Aquaculture. The team includes veterinarians and animal care and welfare officers, who report to the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB).

Facilities are licensed, and regularly inspected, by the UK Home Office, and the Institute works in line with the requirements of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and all sites are licenced and inspected by regulatory authorities, including the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Marine Scotland.

What happens to animals after they are no longer required for research?

Under animal welfare legislation, once an animal is no longer involved in research, it is humanely euthanised.

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