Openness in animal research

We are committed to being open and transparent about the research we conduct involving animals and have signed the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK promoted by the Understanding Animal Research organisation.

Much of our research at Glasgow involves studying lab-grown cells, human-derived tissues or computer models, but often useful knowledge can only be gained by understanding how a disease or drug functions in a living organism.

Animals are only used in research at Glasgow when there is no other suitable alternative available, and we are committed to the principles of the three Rs – replacement, refinement and reduction.

The welfare of our research animals is very important and we provide high-quality in-house veterinary care and housing facilities. Where necessary our animals receive anaesthesia and pain relief to minimise their discomfort and distress and they are humanely euthanised at the end of their lives.

All of our scientists who are engaged in animal research are properly trained and licensed and we work under the strict legislation and guidance issued by the Home Office.

We believe animals have made and continue to make a huge contribution to our understanding of human and animal health. Without their contribution many of the medicines and therapies we have at our disposal, and much of our knowledge, just wouldn’t exist.

The animals we use

The University uses a variety of mammals, birds, fish and amphibians for research purposes and procedures.

All our animals are housed in proper facilities and are cared for by a team of veterinary surgeons, animal care staff and support staff who are all fully-qualified and trained. Our facilities are regularly inspected by the Home Office.

Numbers of animals used

 2018201920202021   2022 2023
Rodent 125,051 114,082 96,583 98,655 104,266 98,273
Fish 2,061 2,807 4,505 3,775 3,059 2,788
Bird 1,577 749 824 380 680 646
Sheep 155 320 365 341 60 227
Rabbit 132 170 64 108 133 147
Cattle 6 10 185 12 6 6
Dogs  -  -  -  -  - 2
TOTAL 128,982 118,319 102,526 103,271 108,204 102,089

Types of animals used

Approximate number of procedures involving animals under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, on Home Office project licences held under the University of Glasgow establishment licence:

















































*Includes Beatson Institute for Cancer Research

Severity levels of animal research

Any activity that can cause an animal pain, suffering or distress is referred to as a ‘procedure’. A procedure can be as mild as an injection or as severe as a surgical intervention.  All procedures are defined by the Home Office using different classifications – Subthreshold, Mild, Moderate, Severe and Non-recovery. Most research at the University of Glasgow is either mild or subthreshold.

The levels of severity animals experience are:

  • Subthreshold: where the animals do not suffer
  • Mild: causes short-term mild pain, suffering or distress
  • Moderate: causes short-term moderate pain, suffering or distress or long-lasting mild pain, suffering or distress
  • Severe: causes short-term severe pain, suffering or distress, or long-lasting moderate pain, suffering or distress
  • Non-recovery: the animal is placed under general anaesthetic before the start of the procedure and is humanely killed without ever regaining consciousness
2023 Total%
Sub threshold 56,498 55.34
Mild 21,888 21.44
Moderate 21,830 21.38
Severe 1,330 1.30
Non recovery 543 0.53
  102, 089 100

Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) Guidelines

The University of Glasgow has signed up to the 'Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) Guidelines'. This is a 20-point checklist for researchers designed to improve the reporting of animal research.

Find out more about the guidelines on the ARRIVE Guidelines website.

Case study involving animal research at the University of Glasgow - Cancer

For us to be able to stop cancer recurrence and spread, we need excellent predictive models that recapitulate human cancer to allow us to be able to work out the significance of targeting different cells in the tumour microenvironment.  

In 2019, Professor Owen Sansom's team at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and University of Glasgow developed for the first time novel mouse models of colorectal cancer that are reminiscent of the worst prognostic subtypes of the disease.  This was a significant unmet need in the colorectal cancer field.  Importantly, work is now underway to translate this clinically for both colon and rectal cancer within the Colorectal Cancer Accelerator platform funded by Cance Research UK and led from Glasgow by Professor Sansom.

Overall, animal work in this study has allowed a significant scientific advance, which could be exploited clinically, and established mouse models that will allow the international research community to study the biology of advanced cancer in much greater depth.

Publication: Jackstadt et al. Epithelial NOTCH Signaling Rewires the Tumor Microenvironment of Colorectal Cancer to Drive Poor-Prognosis Subtypes and Metastasis. Cancer Cell 2019; 36: 319-336.e7


Logo for the Beatson Institute

Case study involving animal research at the University of Glasgow - Pioneering new treatment for Epilepsy in Dogs

A groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind clinical trial in dogs could offer new hope for pets and their owners impacted by canine epilepsy

Led by researchers at the University of Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the METriC (MiRNA-134 -antisense-oligonucleotide Epilepsy Treatment in Canines) trial, hopes to successfully treat dogs with severe epilepsy with a new medication, Ant-134. So far, results from the trial have been encouraging, with some of the dogs experiencing a reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life.

Further details on the study can be found here


Q. Why do we need animal research? Aren’t there other options like computer modelling and human-derived cells?

A. There are many different ways to study biology outside of a living organism – for example, cells in a Petri dish (in-vitro). However, to fully understand how a disease evolves or a drug works inside a living creature it is necessary to study these things in animals (in-vivo). We are committed to replacing, refining and reducing our use of animals by taking advantage of new research methods and technology and using stem cells derived from adult humans.

Animal research has greatly advanced medical knowledge and practice – both in humans and animals. Without these advances things like anaesthetic and antibiotics might not be in use today.

Q. Do you test cosmetics on any animal?

A. No. The University does not test cosmetics on animals.

Q. Does the University use primates for research?

A. No. The university does not use primates for research.

Q. How is the decision to use animals made/approved?

A. In bidding for funding and permission to undertake studies, researchers must demonstrate that they have considered all other non-animal research methods. All projects that require a Home Office licence have to be approved through the University’s Animal Welfare and Ethics Review Board.

The University's ethical review process involves lay representation and external and internal members. It provides ethical advice on standards of animal care, welfare, and accommodation, and ensures that those working with animals are aware of their responsibilities and receive appropriate training. Veterinary and animal care staff are actively involved in the ethical review of research, welfare, and care of animals and provide ongoing advice and support to researchers where necessary.

Q. What kinds of procedures are carried out on animals?

A. Most of the animals at Glasgow are rodents – mice and rats. Some of these rodents may be genetically modified, for example, to make them more or less prone to developing a certain condition, like cardiovascular disease or arthritis. Common procedures include taking blood samples from living animals, and taking tissue samples from euthanised animals. One example of a severe procedure conducted at the University involves inflicting spinal cord injuries on mice as part of research into spinal cord injury in humans. These mice receive anaesthesia and pain relief.

Q. Do animals suffer pain during research?

A. Procedures carried out by the University are assessed for the level of pain likely to be inflicted, with a low score commensurate with blood-taking using a needle. Animals are given anaesthetics and analgesics (pain-relief) where necessary.

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

A. Under welfare guidelines each animal can only undergo a certain number of procedures. Once an animal is no longer required it is humanely euthanised.

Q. Where you get animals from?

A. The majority of our animals are either sourced from breeding establishments licensed by the Home Office or bred at our own facilities. Some studies are undertaken on animals in the wild.

Further reading

More from the University

For more information about UK legislation on animal research

To find out more about how scientists are finding new ways to carry out research without using animals

For more information about why animal research is carried out, how it has contributed to medical treatments and the types of procedures undertaken