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.
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.
A study in which the rat social discrimination test was refined is described. This test measures social memory by using, in general, juvenile rats as stimulus animals. Rats are offered a first juvenile to investigate (learning trial), and after a specified interval, the rats are offered the same rat and a second juvenile rat to investigate again (retrieval trial). When the rats sniff the second juvenile in the retrieval trial more than the first, social memory for the first juvenile is said to be present. This test is mainly based on scents from the juvenile. Attempts were made to refine the test to reduce the number of animals used, to enhance the scope of the test, and to improve its validity. Firstly, the stimulus animals were replaced by the scent of juveniles, in the form of cups filled with sawdust taken from cages of juvenile rats. Similar results to those in the original test were obtained when using these scents. Furthermore, male and female scents were tested, and showed the same results as for the juvenile scents. Secondly, rats were also given two cups (one scent-filled and one filled with plain sawdust) in the learning trial, to determine which allowed a more-precise delineation of motivational, discriminatory and memory components. Overall, it is possible to replace stimulus animals by scent-filled cups in the social discrimination test, to enhance the scope of the test, and to draw more-valid conclusions with respect to social memory.
The explosive growth in the use of botulinum toxin for cosmetic purposes has undoubtedly had an impact on the number of animals used in the potency testing of this product. The test used is a classical LD50, a severe procedure during which animals experience increasing paralysis until the occurrence of death. The enthusiastic adoption by the general public of the use of botulinum toxin as an anti-wrinkle treatment has, at least in Europe, paradoxically taken place against a background of moves to stop animal testing of cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients. There appears to be a dearth of information aimed at the public concerning botulinum toxin testing. Botulinum toxin does have important medical applications; however, the question arises whether a blanket licence for the testing can be justified, when a large proportion of the product is being used cosmetically. A further question is why death continues to be the endpoint of the potency test, when a more-humane endpoint has been proposed. In addition, a number of alternative methods have been developed, which could have the potential to replace the lethal potency test altogether. These methods are discussed in this paper, and the importance of establishing a strategy for their validation is emphasised, a need that has become even more urgent in the light of the recently published draft monograph on botulinum toxin by the European Pharmacopoeia Commission.