The law, licences, and the three ‘Rs’

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013)

Research involving all non-human vertebrate and cephalopod species has particular legal requirements. These species are defined as ‘protected animals’ under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (revised 2013), which regulates procedures, carried out for scientific or educational purposes, that may cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm.


Under the legislation, 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

Licences are approved by the Secretary of State, on the advice of the Home Office. Our facilities are inspected in line with Home Office requirements.

The University Secretary is the University’s Establishment Licence Holder.

Read our non-technical summaries of our current project licences.

The three ‘Rs’

The legislation is underpinned by the three ‘Rs’ – the principles of replacement, reduction and refinement – which ensures that animal research is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists and under conditions which minimise any suffering.

In practice, this means that in our research, animals are replaced with non-animal alternatives wherever possible; the number of animals is reduced to the minimum required to achieve valid results; and, for those animals which must be used, procedures are refined to minimise their suffering.

Our researchers at the University of Stirling are committed to considering the three ‘Rs’ in all aspects of our research – from design to implementation – and we do everything we can to enhance animal welfare.


All research involving animals is reported in accordance with guidelines set out by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs). The Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines were developed in consultation with the scientific community as part of an NC3Rs initiative to improve the standard of reporting of research using animals.


Compliance with the legislation and guidelines relevant to research involving animals is governed by the University’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body.