Pain and suffering in laboratory animals

Pain and suffering in laboratory animals

The extent to which animal testing causes pain and suffering, and the capacity of laboratory animals to experience and comprehend them, is the subject of much debate. [Duncan IJ, Petherick JC. [ "The implications of cognitive processes for animal welfare"] , "J. Anim. Sci"., volume 69, issue 12, 1991, pp. 5017–22. pmid 1808195; Curtis SE, Stricklin WR. [ "The importance of animal cognition in agricultural animal production systems: an overview"] , "J. Anim. Sci.". volume 69, issue 12, 1991, pp. 5001–7. pmid 1808193]


Marian Stamp Dawkins defines "suffering" in laboratory animals as the experience of one of "a wide range of extremely unpleasant subjective (mental) states."Stamp Dawkins, Marian. "Scientific Basis for Assessing Suffering in Animals," in Singer, Peter. "In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave". Blackwell, 2006. p. 28.]

The United States Department of Agriculture defines a "painful procedure" in an animal study as one that would "reasonably be expected to cause more than slight or momentary pain or distress in a human being to which that procedure was applied." [ Animal Welfare; Definitions for and Reporting of Pain and Distress"] , Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin, Summer 2000, Vol. 11 No. 1-2, United States Department of Agriculture.]

History of attitudes toward animal pain

Larry Carbone, a laboratory animal veterinarian with the University of California, San Francisco, writes that the idea that animals might not feel pain as human beings do traces back to the 17th-century French philosopher, René Descartes, who argued that they do not experience pain and suffering because they lack rationality.Carbone, Larry. '"What Animal Want: Expertise and Advocacy in Laboratory Animal Welfare Policy". Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 149.] Non-human animals were non-sentient automata, a view summed up by Nicolas Malebranche, who wrote that they "eat without pleasure, cry without pain, grow without knowing it; they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing."Malebranche, Nicholas. in Rodis-Lewis, G. (ed.). "Oeuvres complètes". Paris: J. Vrin. 1958-70, II, p. 394, cited in Harrison, Peter. "Descartes on Animals," "The Philosophical Quarterly", Vol. 42, No. 167, April 1992, pp. 219-227.] Animal researchers from this period reportedly took these words to heart; Carbone cites Nicholas Fontaine who wrote that they "administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference, and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they felt pain." [Fontaine, Nicholas. 1738, p. 201, cited in Carbone, Larry. '"What Animal Want: Expertise and Advocacy in Laboratory Animal Welfare Policy". Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 149. Also see Carter, Alan. "Animals, Pain and Morality," "Journal of Applied Philosophy", Volume 22, No. 1, March 2005, pp. 17–22.]

Bernard Rollin, a philosopher and professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University, and the principal author of two U.S. federal laws regulating pain and distress relief for animals, [Rollin drafted the 1985 Health Research Extension Act and an animal welfare amendment to the 1985 Food Security Act: see Rollin, Bernard. [ "Animal research: a moral science. Talking Point on the use of animals in scientific research"] , EMBO reports 8, 6, 2007, pp. 521–525] writes that, until the 1980s, researchers continued to deny that animals experience pain as human beings experience it. Veterinarians trained in the U.S. before 1989 were taught to ignore pain. He writes that at least one major veterinary hospital in the 1960s did not stock narcotic analgesics for animal pain control, or even request a licence to do so, and quotes an associate dean of a veterinary college, who argued that "anesthesia and analgesia have nothing to with [animal] pain; they are methods of chemical restraint."Rollin, Bernard. "The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain, and Science". New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. xii, 117-118, cited in Carbone 2004, p. 150.]

In his interactions with scientists and other veterinarians, he was regularly asked to "prove" that animals are conscious, and to provide "scientifically acceptable" grounds for claiming that they feel pain. Anyone who raised the issue of animal suffering, he writes, was stigmatized as a misanthrope who preferred animals to human beings. [Rollin, Bernard. [ "Animal research: a moral science. Talking Point on the use of animals in scientific research"] , EMBO reports 8, 6, 2007, pp. 521–525.]

It was not until the 1985 Health Research Extension Act, drafted by Rollin, that pain and distress control for laboratory animals was regulated. [ ['s+Pick/WEB-EXCLUSIVEbr-Interview-with-Bernard-Rollin/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/463213 "Interview with Bernard Rollin"] , "DVM", a news magazine of veterinary medicine, October 5, 2007; also see [ Health Research Extension Act 1985] , Public Law 99-158, November 20, 1985, "Animals in Research," retrieved January 30, 2008.]

Current attitudes

Carbone writes that the view that animals feel pain differently is now a minority view, and that radical theories that fly in the face of common sense — for example, that animals lack consciousness — find little acceptance. Academic reviews of the topic are more equivocal, noting that although the argument that animals have at least simple conscious thoughts and feelings has strong support, [Griffin D.R., Speck, G.B. "New evidence of animal consciousness," "Anim. Cogn." volume 7, issue 1, 2004, pp. 5–18. PMID 14658059] some critics still question the validity of such theories. [Allen C (1998) [ Assessing animal cognition: ethological and philosophical perspectives] "J. Anim. Sci." volume 76 issue 1, pp. 42-47. PMID 9464883]

The majority of researchers do accept that animals feel pain, although at an individual level, Carbone has often experienced researchers denying that particular animals are in pain, even when they are standing together watching the animal's response to a scalpel or needle. [Carbone 2004, p. 150.] The problem of animal pain arises because the animal has no clear way of communicating it, which has led to what he calls the "scientization" of pain, where researchers attempt to reduce it to a physical and identifiable quality, rather than the subjective experience a layperson would describe. They use a particular language to describe it, writing for example that "x was aversive at all concentrations," instead of "x seemed to be in pain no matter the dose." Carbone writes that the purpose of this "scientization" is both to find more objective ways to measure pain, but also to establish the scientists' credentials as the group best placed to identify it, in order to retain a degree of political and legal control over how pain is regulated. [Carbone 2004, pp. 153-158.]

According to Carbone, researchers may remain reluctant to dispense pain medication for a number of reasons. He writes that anesthetics and analgesics are expensive, and that many are controlled narcoleptics that require extensive record keeping, licencing, and — in the U.S. — Drug Enforcement Administration inspections. Correctly used, they would require round-the-clock attendance on the animals, and redosing every few hours. They have side effects, such as respiratory depression, intestinal problems, and decreased blood clotting that could impact on the research variables. There are also studies where the assessment of pain is part of the research; for example, if arthritis is induced in a group of animals in order to test a painkiller, a control group with arthritis but with no pain control is needed for the sake of comparison. Carbone further argues that researchers raised in the era of increased awareness of animal welfare may be inclined to deny that animals are in pain simply because they do not want to see themselves as people who inflict it. [Carbone 2004, p. 151.]

Pain classification

In the U.S. in 2004, over 600,000 animals (not including rats, mice, birds, or invertebrates) were used in procedures that, according to the Animal Care Committees of the institutions conducting the research, did not include more than momentary pain or distress. Nearly 400,000 were used in procedures in which pain or distress was relieved by anesthesia, while 87,000 were used in studies in which researchers planned to cause pain or distress that would not be relieved. [ [ "USDA Animal Welfare Act Report 2004"] .]

In the UK, research projects are classified as mild, moderate, and substantial in terms of the suffering the researchers conducting the study say they may cause; a fourth category of "unclassified" means the animal was anesthetized and killed without recovering consciousness, according to the researchers. In December 2001, 39 percent (1,296) of project licences in force were classified as mild, 55 percent (1,811) as moderate, two percent (63) as substantial, and 4 percent (139) as unclassified.Ryder, Richard D. "Speciesism in the laboratory," in Singer, Peter. "In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave". Blackwell, 2006. p. 99.]

"The Observer" wrote in 2003 that the British Home Office worked with Imutran Ltd, a subsidiary of Novartis Pharma AG, to underestimate suffering in order to obtain licences to conduct kidney transplants on non-human primates. A report from the company said: "The Home Office will attempt to get the kidney transplants classified as 'moderate,' ensuring that it is easier for Imutran to receive a licence and ignoring the 'severe' nature of these programmes."Townsend, Mark. [,6903,940033,00.html "Exposed: secrets of the animal organ lab"] , "The Observer", April 20, 2003. The Home Office response to these allegations is [ "Imutran Ltd: Response to the Home Affairs Committee - licensing and regulating the xenotransplantation research"] , 14 October, 2003]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Laboratory animal sources — Animals used by laboratories for testing purposes are largely supplied by dealers who specialize in selling them to universities, medical and veterinary schools, and companies that provide contract animal testing services. It is comparatively… …   Wikipedia

  • Pain — This article is about physical pain. For pain in the broader sense, see Suffering. For other uses, see Pain (disambiguation). Pain A sports player in pain. ICD 10 R52 …   Wikipedia

  • Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 — Infobox UK Legislation short title=Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 parliament=Parliament of the United Kingdom long title=An Act to make new provision for the protection of animals used for experimental or other scientific purposes.… …   Wikipedia

  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — PETA redirects here. For other uses, see Peta (disambiguation). Founder(s) Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco …   Wikipedia

  • Cruelty to animals — Chest X ray of a shot cat. White spots are lead shot. Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse or animal neglect, is the infliction of suffering …   Wikipedia

  • Testing cosmetics on animals — is a form of animal testing, intended to ensure the safety and hypoallergenic properties of the products for use by humans. Because of the harm done to the animal subjects, this testing is opposed by animal rights activists and others, and is… …   Wikipedia

  • Moral status of animals in the ancient world — The 21st century debates about animal welfare and animal rights can be traced back to the ancient world. The idea that the use of animals by humans for food, clothing, entertainment, and as research subjects is morally acceptable, springs mainly… …   Wikipedia

  • Mercy for Animals — Abbreviation MFA Formation 1999 Type Non profit Purpose/focus Animal rights …   Wikipedia

  • Cruelty to Animals Act 1849 — The Cruelty to Animals Act 1849 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (12 13 Vict. c. 92) with the long title An Act for the more effectual Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Act repealed two previous Acts, the Cruel Treatment of… …   Wikipedia

  • Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 — Animal testing Main articles Animal testing Alternatives to animal testing Testing on …   Wikipedia