Refinement refers to the use of methods that help to minimise animal suffering in the laboratory. Research in this area has increased significantly over the past two decades. However, the extent to which refinements are applied in practice is uncertain. To provide an indication of the implementation and awareness of refinements, we reviewed the experimental techniques for 684 surgical interventions described in 506 animal research applications sent to the German competent authorities for approval in 2010. In this paper, we describe and discuss the appropriateness of the proposed humane endpoints and killing methods. We found that, when the investigators included humane endpoints in their application, these were often lacking in detail and/or were to be implemented at a late stage of suffering. In addition, the choice of method to kill the animals could be improved in the majority of the applications. We provide recommendations for future improvements, based on the recent literature. To ensure scientific rigour, avoid needless animal suffering and enable an accurate harm–benefit analysis, animal researchers have to be knowledgeable about refinement methods and apply them effectively. To assess compliance and ensure that only those studies in which potential benefits outweigh the harms are carried out, reviews such as ours — as well as retrospective assessments of actual harms and benefits — should be conducted widely and regularly, and the findings should be published.
Severity classification of surgical procedures and application of health monitoring strategies in animal research proposals: A retrospective review
Kathrin Herrmann and Paul Flecknell
Animal experimentation has been one of the most controversial areas of animal use, mainly due to the intentional harms inflicted upon the animals used. In an effort to reduce these harms, research on refinement has increased significantly over the past 20 years. However, the extent to which these efforts have helped to reduce the severity of the research procedures, and thus animal suffering, is uncertain. To provide an indication of the awareness and implementation of refinement methods, we reviewed the experimental techniques for 684 surgical interventions described in 506 animal research applications that had been sent to the German competent authorities for approval in 2010. In this paper, we describe and discuss the severity categorisation of the proposed surgeries and the planned health monitoring strategies. We found that the researchers frequently underestimated the levels of pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm that were to be inflicted on the animals. Furthermore, the planned health monitoring strategies were generally flawed. To ensure responsible treatment of animals and high-quality science, adequate training of research workers in recognising and alleviating animal suffering is essential.
A Review of the Contributions of Cross-discipline Collaborative European IMI/EFPIA Research Projects to the Development of Replacement, Reductionand Refinement Strategies
The objective of this review is to report on whether, and if so, how, scientific research projects organised and managed within collaborative consortia across academia and industry are contributing to the Three Rs (i.e. reduction, replacement and refinement of the use of animals in research). A number of major technological developments have recently opened up possibilities for more direct, human-based approaches leading to a reassessment of the role and use of experimental animals in pharmacological research and biomedicine. This report reviews how projects funded by one of the research funding streams, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), are contributing to a better understanding of the challenges faced in using animal models. It also looks how the results from these various projects are impacting on the continued use of laboratory animals in research and development. From the progress identified, it is apparent that the approach of private–public partnership has demonstrated the value of multicentre studies, and how the spirit of collaboration and sharing of information can help address human health challenges. In so doing, this approach can reduce the dependence on animal use in areas where it has normally been viewed as necessary. The use of a collaborative platform enables the Three Rs to be addressed on multiple different levels, such that the selection of models to be tested, the protocols to be followed, and the interpretation of results generated, can all be optimised. This will, in turn, lead to an overall reduction in the use of laboratory animals.
Lynne U. Sneddon
Reducing pain in animals is an ethical and sometimes legal requirement, but how do we assess pain and does it confound data collection?
Attitudes Toward the Use of Animals in Chronic versus Acute Pain Research: Results of a Web-based Forum
Elisabeth H. Ormandy and Gilly Griffin
When asked about the use of animals in biomedical research, people often state that the research is only acceptable if pain and distress are minimised. However, pain is caused when the aim is to study pain itself, resulting in unalleviated pain for many of the animals involved. Consequently, the use of animals in pain research is often considered contentious. To date, no research has explored people's views toward different types of animal-based pain research (e.g. chronic or acute pain). This study used a web-based survey to explore people's willingness to support the use of mice in chronic versus acute pain research. The majority of the participants opposed the use of mice for either chronic (68.3%) or acute (63.1%) pain research. There was no difference in the levels of support or opposition for chronic versus acute pain research. Unsupportive participants justified their opposition by focusing on the perceived lack of scientific merit, or the existence of non-animal alternatives. Supporters emphasised the potential benefits that could arise, with some stating that the benefits outweigh the costs. The majority of the participants were opposed to pain research involving mice, regardless of the nature and duration of the pain inflicted, or the perceived benefit of the research. A better understanding of public views toward animal use in pain research may provide a stronger foundation for the development of policy governing the use of animals in research where animals are likely to experience unalleviated pain.
Elliot Lilley, Penny Hawkins and Maggy Jennings
Ending severe suffering is a desirable goal for both ethical and scientific reasons. The RSPCA has pledged to work toward the end of such suffering for laboratory animals, and in this article we outline a practical approach that establishments can follow to achieve this aim.