BAP Statement on Animal Research

The use of animals in Psychopharmacology

The BAP supports the use of animals in biomedical research in the UK, which is essential and unavoidable, and the continuing, thorough scrutiny of this research. The activities of the BAP underpin its members’ commitment to the implementation of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) and fostering a culture of care and best practice in psychopharmacology animal research.

The British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) represents about 1000 clinical and non-clinical members who work in academia, industry and the health service. The BAP supports the effort to find new ways of treating debilitating (sometimes life-threatening) psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and dementia. Members of the BAP are dedicated to ensuring best practice in psychiatry and acknowledge that this requires the evaluation of existing medicines as well as the discovery and developments of new ones. Research using animals has made, and continues to make, a vital contribution to this process.

Psychopharmacology research recruits a wide range of techniques including those using isolated cells and tissues, as well as experiments on humans. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to understand how drugs affect whole animal physiology and behaviour. This need is particulalrly relevant to studies involving the brain, our most complex and inaccessible organ. To this end, experiments using animals make an essential and unavoidable contribution to the development of new medicines and the discovery of the therapeutic targets of the future.

Research in the UK that involves animals is stringently regulated by the Home Office and requires the authorisation of a Project Licence, granted by the Home Secretary. Criteria for granting Project Licences are defined in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Project Licences are required for each specific programme of research and are awarded only when the research objectives cannot be achieved by using in vitro techniques (test-tube experiments) or studies in humans. In addition, the benefits of the research must justify the use of animals, taking into account the experiences of the animals concerned. Applicants for a licence must provide assurance that the research will use the minimum number of animals needed to reach a valid conclusion. They must also confirm that every effort is made to minimise any distress experienced by the animals. Scientists are licensed to carry out experiments on animals only when they have provided evidence that they are aware of their responsibility to optimise animal welfare in their research and that they have received appropriate training. All applications for a Project Licence are scrutinised by a local ethical review panel that includes lay members as well as researchers and named animal care and welfare officers. The majority of experiments are carried out on rodents (rats and mice).