|Long title||An Act to amend the Law relating to Cruelty to Animals.|
|Citation||39 & 40 Vict. c. 77|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales,|
Republic of Ireland
|Royal assent||15 August 1876|
|Repealed by||Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986|
The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c. 77.) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which set limits on the practice of, and instituted a licensing system for animal experimentation, amending the Cruelty to Animals Act 1849. It was a public general Act. The Act was replaced 110 years later by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
The Act stipulated that researchers would be prosecuted for cruelty, unless they conformed to its provisions, which required that an experiment involving the infliction of pain upon animals to only be conducted when "the proposed experiments are absolutely necessary for the due instruction of the persons [so they may go on to use the instruction] to save or prolong human life".
Furthermore, the Act stated that should the experiment occur, the animal must be anaesthetised, used only once (though several procedures regarded as part of the same experiment were permitted), and killed as soon as the study was over. Prosecutions under the Act could be made only with the approval of the Secretary of State. The Act was applicable to vertebrate animals only.
Opposition to vivisection had led the government to set up a Royal Commission on Vivisection in July 1875, which recommended that legislation be enacted to control it. This Act was created as a result, but was criticized by National Anti-Vivisection Society - itself founded in December 1875 - as "infamous but well-named," in that it made no provision for public accountability of licensing decisions. The law remained in force for 110 years, until it was replaced by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which is the subject of similar criticism from the modern animal rights movement.
The Act states, in part:
Any person performing or taking part in performing any experiment calculated to give pain, in contravention of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act, and shall, if it be the first offence, be liable to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds, and if it be the second or any subsequent offence, be liable, at the discretion of the court by which he is tried, to a penalty not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months.