LONDON—A more restrictive law aimed at British biologists who use laboratory animals goes into effect this month.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act of 1986 applies to anything done in the name of science that might cause "pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm" to animals. Routine tests, antiserum production and a host of small interferences occurring during behavioral or field studies are covered for the first time.

The law replaces the grimly-named Cruelty to Animals Act, which in 1876 was the first law of its kind in the world. In recent years many countries have adopted laws to correspond to the European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals Used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes.

Animals are defined as any creature with a backbone, although certain specified invertebrates may also be included. Vertebrate embryos are covered from mid-term, a definition that brings into the law, for example, scientists who work...

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