The Open University uses animals in research only where no alternatives are available and we always look for ways to reduce the numbers of animals used. However, until effective alternative models are available, some animals will continue to be needed in research. We follow strict guidance and regulations concerning the welfare of animals we use. On those occasions where research involves pain, suffering or distress to the animals, our aim is to alleviate or minimise that pain, suffering or distress.
Our research is scrutinised by our Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB), whose membership includes lay members as well as academics and experts in animal care and welfare. The AWERB reviews research applications and decides whether our research is significant enough to justify animal use and that due consideration has been given to the welfare of animals.
Scientists at the OU carry out both Home Office licensed research and non-regulated research that does not fall under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act. Non-regulated research includes research on animals’ interaction with their environments and on the use of technology to improve the lives of animals and humans.
The number of animals used varies considerably between years, as it depends on the projects that are being undertaken, which in turn depends on the availability of grant funding.
Researchers collaborate as much as possible so as to share the benefits of, for example, tissue extracted from a single animal.
The numbers for the past few years are as follows:
|Year||Number of rats||Number of mice|
There are a range of procedures including:
For some procedures the animals have to be killed humanely before the procedure; for example, tissue extraction from the gut or brain. However, for some research, such as the effect of diet, or of drugs on behaviour, the animals have to be alive. The animals are closely monitored and if they show signs of pain and distress they will be killed humanely.
Any animals still alive at the end of a project would normally be killed humanely unless they can be used for other projects. Laboratory animals will be re-homed where possible.
The University sometimes breeds mice and rats. If and when other animals are needed, we are supplied by reputable licenced suppliers who are committed to animal welfare and ethics.