Our research involving animals

The University employs a wide range of non-animal experimental techniques and we continue to promote the replacement, reduction, and refinement of animals in research. However, a small proportion of the University’s research requires the use of animals.

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.

The University only conducts animal research where there are no suitable alternatives and, in line with best practice guidelines, we publish the number of regulated procedures involving animals (fish), conducted by the University, on an annual basis. This number can fluctuate, depending on the number and type of research projects conducted over the year.

In 2023, the University of Stirling used 10,383 fish in procedures regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013) a reduction from 11,655 in 2022. 

Best practice

The Institute of Aquaculture operates to the highest possible standards and its research facilities – on the University of Stirling campus, at the Niall Bromage Freshwater Research Unit (Stirlingshire), and the Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (Argyll) – are licensed, and regularly inspected, by the UK Home Office. 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. Our highly skilled staff – including veterinarians – are committed to a culture of care and respect for animal welfare and only use fish in procedures where there are no suitable alternatives available.

Institute of Aquaculture research

Founded in 1971, the Institute of Aquaculture is the largest of its kind in the world, leading the way in tackling global problems of food security, and social and environmental sustainability through aquaculture. It has an international reputation for its high-quality teaching, world-class research, technological innovation and consultancy in the aquaculture sector.

With more than 80 percent of its research activity rated as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’, the Institute focuses on answering critical questions, such as how to develop strategies for sustainable aquaculture and aquatic food security, how to inform modern commercial markets, and how to support communities in developing countries so they have enough to eat.

In addition, the Institute studies:

  • All aspects of aquatic animal health including; immunology, histopathology, bacteriology, virology, parasitology and welfare.
  • The welfare of fish – from understanding the nature of fish welfare, to developing strategies to monitor and improve fish welfare on farms and in research.
  • The importance of fish oils and the key role they play in human nutrition for the development of the nervous system, and in the prevention and therapy of pathological conditions including cardiovascular and inflammatory disorders.
  • Fish farming to ensure that the production of fish is a controllable and sustainable resource, improving brood stock management, welfare and potential new-farmed aquatic animals.

The Institute of Aquaculture uses the following fish 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 Oreochromis niloticus), lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) and Catfish (Clarias gariepinus).

Other research

Beyond our work in aquaculture, the University does conduct other research relating to animals and insects – but these studies do not include procedures regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013). This area of research is diverse – from investigating declining bee populations to tackling the illegal global trade of pangolins – and has a positive impact across the world. We have used innovative monitoring techniques to protect the world’s elephants, provided a valuable insight into the relationship between predators and their prey, and analysed the threat of hunting on bird populations in central Africa.