Purpose of research involving animals

The University of St Andrews carries out research with animals under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA), 1986. The University aims to be open about research which involves animals and is a signatory to the Concordat on Openness, which encourages best practice when engaging with the public about animal research. Find out more about our policy on animals in research.

The research carried out by the University ranges from animal behaviour and conservation, through to neuroscience and physiology.   

Research involving animals is carried out in the following general areas:

  • protection of the natural environment
  • animal biology and reproductive systems
  • nervous system
  • animal behaviour.

Researchers at St Andrews engage in basic bioscience which underpins advances in the health and wellbeing of humans and animals. We also perform biomedical research which directly addresses human medical disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone Disease. Our fundamental research also investigates how animals interact with their environment, providing new information about how they can be better protected in the wild.


Number of animals involved in experiments

During 2017, 2,363 animals were involved in 2,215 procedures at the University under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA) in Home Office licenced procedures.

In 2016, the annual statistics for Great Britain reported that a total of 3.94 million regulated procedures were completed, of which 2.02 million were experimental procedures. Research at the University of St Andrews is, therefore, less than 0.1% of licenced procedures on animals in Great Britain.

Species2017 University of St Andrews2016 University of St Andrews2015 University of St Andrews2016 Great Britain
Birds 521 776 550 151,403
Clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) 96 98 109 10,726
Mice 1,416 1,792 1,167 2,866,435
Rats 61 209 256 249,389
Seals (see below) 269 278 262 -


The UK has a population of approximately 100,000 grey seals and 50,000 harbour seals, and they are protected under UK law. The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) carries out research on seals to protect the natural environment; for this purpose SMRU handles a few hundred individuals annually. Their research is directed at understanding the causes and effects of changes in seal abundance and distribution, work that helps to inform policy-making decisions and the conservation management of these important top predators. As seals are often impacted by human marine activities, we want to know the nature of these activities and the magnitude and importance of their impact.

The number of seals provided is the number handled and released as reported to the Scottish Government under the Marine (Scotland) Act licence.