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Reducing the suffering of research animals

Animal research and testing involve many different types of procedure, which cause varying levels of suffering. Here's more on how animals suffer during experiments and what we're doing to help them.

Do animals suffer in experiments?

Procedures can range from looking at behaviour and taking blood samples to carrying out surgery or creating animal 'models' of arthritis, liver disease or depression. Conditions like arthritis can cause pain or distress in humans and will also cause animals to suffer.

Experimental procedures in the UK are classified as causing 'mild', 'moderate' or 'severe' suffering. Although many procedures may be mild, large numbers of animals undergo procedures in the moderate category, and some animals suffer severely.

There's no doubt that animals can experience pain and distress as a result of being used in experiments - but there also are many other causes of suffering that must be acknowledged and dealt with.

One especially important factor is animal housing and care, which can cause problems if the animals' needs aren't properly catered for - such as suitable companions, somewhere to hide, and an environment that stimulates their natural behaviours. Transport between locations can be very stressful for them, as can being handled, mixed with unfamiliar animals or (in the case of many rodents) even being transferred to a clean cage.

What we're doing to help lab animals

We aim to ensure that the suffering animals experience - both due to experiments and life in the laboratory - is properly recognised and effectively reduced for as long as animal use continues. There are many opportunities for reducing fear, discomfort, pain or distress caused by experimental procedures or other aspects of the animals' lives. Much of our work is dedicated to:

  • Developing and promoting better ways of identifying and assessing suffering, so that it can be recognised and treated earlier
  • Changing the way procedures are carried out so that they cause less suffering
  • Influencing laws and guidelines, in the UK and worldwide, so that they include clear requirements to effectively recognise, assess, reduce and report suffering
  • Improving standards of laboratory animal housing and care

Take a look at our infographic on severe suffering and find out more about alternatives to animal testing.

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