The UK AWERB
The Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body makes essential contributions to improving science and animal welfare, promoting a good Culture of Care and improving public accountability. Ensuring that AWERBs and their members are well supported, and able to make a real difference with respect to deciding whether and how animals are used, is very important to the RSPCA.
Animal experiments in the UK are regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. This is implemented by the Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit, which has formal responsibility for project authorisation, including ethical review.
All establishments using, breeding or supplying animals for scientific procedures must have an institutional Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). The AWERB fulfils all the functions of the Animal Welfare Body required by the European Directive regulating animal care and use (Directive 2010/63/EU), but it has a wider membership and list of tasks. Importantly, the UK AWERB also reviews project licence applications, advising the Establishment Licence Holder whether to support these from a local institutional perspective, before they are formally reviewed by the Home Office.
The mandatory tasks and membership of the AWERBs are listed on our functions and tasks page . More detailed guidance on developing an effective AWERB is provided in the RSPCA/LASA Guiding Principles on the Operation of Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Bodies. Many AWERBs are functioning well, but there are some outstanding issues that need to be addressed - if you sit on an AWERB, you may like to consider these.
The Animals in Science Committee (ASC) advises AWERBs on 'sharing best practice'. It has set up a system of regional hubs to link individual AWERBs and improve communication and information sharing between them. The ASC also produces a newsletter for AWERBs and an online Knowledge Hub for AWERB members only (contact the ASC Secretariat if you are an AWERB member and would like further information firstname.lastname@example.org).