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The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (A(SP)A 86) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (1986 c. 14) passed in 1986, which regulates the use of laboratory animals in the UK. The Act permits experiments to be carried out on animals, including procedures involving vivisection, if certain criteria are met.[1] The 1986 Act is the UK implementation of the European Directive EC 86/609, which is in the process of being revised.[2]

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection argues that the Act is designed to protect researchers from prosecution for cruelty, rather than to protect the animals themselves.[3] However, a select committee inquiry described the Act as the "tightest system of regulation in the world."[4]

Background Edit

Prior to A(SP)A 86, the use of animals in the UK was regulated by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, which enforced a licensing and inspection system for vivisection. Animal cruelty was previously regulated by the Protection of Animals Act 1911 (now largely repealed) and more recently by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, both of which outlaw the causing of "unnecessary suffering". Specific exemptions apply to experiments licensed under the 1986 Act.[4]

Scope Edit

The 1986 Act defines regulated procedures as animal experiments that could potentially cause "pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm", to protected animals, which encompass all living vertebrates other than humans. A 1993 amendment added a single invertebrate species, Octopus vulgaris, as a protected animal. The Act applies only to protected animals from halfway through their gestation or incubation periods (for mammals, birds and reptiles) or from when they become capable of independent feeding (for fish, amphibians and, latterly, octopuses). Primates, cats, dogs and horses have additional protection over other vertebrates under the Act.

Licences & CertificatesEdit

A(SP)A 86 involves three levels of regulation — person, project, and place. The 'person' level is achieved by the granting of a "personal licence" (PIL) to a researcher wishing to carry out regulated procedures on a protected animal. Having undergone a defined sequence of training, a researcher can apply for a PIL permitting specified techniques to be carried out on named species of animals. The 'project' level of regulation is governed by the granting of a "project licence" (PPL) to a suitably qualified senior researcher. The PPL will detail the scope of the work to be carried out, the likely benefits that may be realised by the work, and the costs involved in terms of the numbers and types of animals to be used. Typically a large and detailed document, the PPL precisely defines which techniques may be applied to particular animals and for what purpose. Finally the place where regulated procedures are carried out is controlled by the granting of a "certificate of designation" (PCD) to a senior authority figure at the establishment, such as the Registrar of a University or the CEO of a commercial company. The PCD details which rooms in the establishment are permitted to be used for certain techniques and species.

It is an offence under the 1986 Act to carry out regulated procedures on a protected animal unless authorised by a personal licence, a project licence, and a certificate of designation.


The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection has criticized the Act, arguing that its main function is not to protect animals, but to protect researchers by permitting them to carry out acts that would be illegal outside a laboratory setting. BUAV writes that, "Under the 1986 Act, it is still perfectly legal for an animal in a laboratory to be unnaturally caged for its entire life; poisoned; deprived of food, water or sleep; applied with skin and eye irritants; subjected to psychological stress; deliberately infected with diseases such as cancer and AIDS; brain damaged; paralysed; surgically mutilated; irradiated; burned; gassed; force fed, electrocuted and killed."[3]

A report by Animal Aid calls the Act a "vivisectors' charter", alleging that it allows researchers to do as they please and makes them practically immune from prosecution. The report says that licences to perform experiments are obtained on the basis of a "nod of approval" from the Home Office Inspectorate, and that the Home Office relies on the researchers' own cost-benefit analysis of the value of the experiment versus the suffering caused.[5]

A 2002 House of Lords select committee inquiry compared the Act to legislation from France, the U.S., and Japan. The report concluded that "virtually all witnesses agreed that the UK has the tightest system of regulation in the world" and that it is "the only country to require an explicit cost/benefit assessment of every application to conduct animal research."[4] Note that costs are explicitly in terms of animal adverse effects, not the financial cost to the experimenters.

In 2005, Patricia Hewitt, then British Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, called the Act "[among] the strongest laws in the world to protect animals which are being used for medical research."[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. Guidance on the Operation of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) act of 1986, The Stationery Office, 15 May 2000, retrieved December 6, 2006.
  2. Revision of Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of Animals used for Experimental and other scientific purposes, The European Commission, 30 April, 2008, retrieved October 1, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "The Law", British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, retrieved July 30, 2006.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Select Committee on Animals In Scientific Procedures Report, The Stationery Office, 16 July 2002, retrieved December 6, 2006.
  5. "Unhappy Anniversary: Twenty years of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986", Animal Aid, retrieved July 15, 2006.
  6. "Head to head: Laws on activists", BBC News, January 31, 2005, retrieved December 6, 2006

External linksEdit

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