Licences are only granted for animal experiments undertaken for specified permissible purposes. There has to be no alternative to using animals, and the likely benefits of the work have to outweigh the adverse effects on the animals concerned. The number of animals used and any suffering that may be caused have to be minimised.
Any proposal to conduct a programme of animal experiments has first to be considered by the local ethical review process at the establishment concerned. A licence application is only submitted to the Home Office once those involved in that local process are satisfied that it can be justified.
Applications received by the Home Office are rigorously assessed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate, to ensure the criteria in the 1986 Act are met. Inspectors are either medical or veterinary graduates, and advise the Secretary of State on whether and on what terms licence authorities should be granted. Some applications are also referred for advice to the Animal Procedures Committee.
Establishments where licensed animal experiments are conducted are visited regularly by the inspectorate, to monitor progress and ensure compliance with licence authorities. The majority of visits of inspections are without notice. Appropriate action is taken should irregularities or breaches of licence conditions come to light.