In the UK, the use of animals in scientific research is regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), which was revised in 2012 in the light of a European Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. ASPA is implemented by the Home Office in England, Scotland and Wales.

In a nutshell (and at the risk of over-simplification), any scientific work which may cause animals pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm is unlawful unless it is covered by three licences from the Home Office:

1. An establishment licence which designates the premises on which scientific procedures may be carried out.

Provision also exists for work to be carried out in some circumstances at a Place Other than the Designated Establishment (PODE). Such PODE work normally covers observational studies or minor regulated procedures such as taking a blood sample for health monitoring or genotyping in the wild or in a farm setting.

2. A project licence, which sets out the purpose of the particular line of research, the techniques to be employed and the predicted severity limits of those techniques.  

3. A personal licence, granted to individual scientists working on the project once they have satisfactorily completed appropriate training.

Read the full Home Office guidelines.