The welfare of animals used in biomedical research is of paramount importance to our researchers. Queen's has a dedicated team of technicians who are responsible for the day-to-day care of the animals held in the University's Biological Services Unit (BSU). Each day the animals are checked to ensure they are content and have sufficient bedding, food and water. There are also stimuli, for example, play tunnels and houses, that enrich the animals' environment. The BSU is also supported by the services of a named veterinary surgeon who undertakes weekly checks of the facility, but who can also be called upon to deal with any animal welfare issues that may arise.
Biological Services Unit
Queen’s has a state-of-the-art Biological Services Unit (BSU) which is the largest and best-equipped animal facility on the island of Ireland (1800 m2, budget £7M). The BSU encompasses Conventional, Specific-Pathogen-Free (SPF), and Category 2 Infection units, which are split over two floors and are all essential for the development and study of different models of human and animal disease. As such, it is more advanced than the majority of all other similar facilities in the UK and underpins the world-leading animal research conducted at the University. Animal welfare is the primary concern for the BSU.
Governance of Animal Research
Animal Research is governed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), and subsequent amendments. Regulations Governing Research Involving Animals are in place to ensure that all animal research is carried out with integrity and in accordance with the law. When research needs to be undertaken that is covered by the terms of the Act, it must be reviewed and approved by both internal and external bodies and the researchers involved must be appropriately trained and hold specific licences, before any research can be carried out.
The University is required to hold an 'Establishment Licence', which is issued by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (NI), (DHSSPS). This Licence covers the areas in which work can be undertaken.
Every researcher involved in animal work must hold a personal licence. This is issued only after very specific education and training is undertaken and the individual deemed competent. The personal licence states what procedures a researcher is qualified to carry out. Researchers are then required to conduct their work under the remit of an overall project licence, which has been considered and approved by the Animal Welfare Ethical Review Body (AWERB).
Applying for licences:
The Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) is composed of academic and post-doctoral staff, postgraduate students, Named Animal Care and Welfare Officers who work in the University's animal facility, an external lay representative, named veterinary surgeon, DHSSPS Inspector and the Queen's Establishment Licence Holder. The researchers involved in the Committee have personal licences and have therefore undergone the Home Office training required for research involving animals under ASPA. The role of AWERB is outlined here. Please also refer to the AWERB Annual Report for 2018-19.