Balcombe J, Barnard N, Sandusky C. Animals in Laboratories: Suffering Beyond the Experiments. Poster session presented at: Alternatives in the Mainstream: Innovations in Life Science Education and Training. 2nd InterNICHE Conference; 2005 May 12-15; Oslo, Norway


Most of the objections to animal experimentation revolve around the experiments themselves. This paper addresses two aspects of laboratory animal welfare separate from the experiments: 1) housing conditions, and 2) routine procedures. Over one hundred published studies were reviewed to assess the effects of standard laboratory housing conditions on the behaviour of rodents, particularly mice and rats. Preference studies show that ‘lab’ mice and rats value opportunities to take cover, build nests, explore, forage, and gain social contact, behavioural needs that are thwarted by standard laboratory housing systems. We also reviewed eighty additional studies to assess the potential stress associated with three routine laboratory procedures: handling, blood collection, and gavage (force-feeding). Pronounced and significant changes in stress indicators (e.g., concentrations of corticosterone, heart rate, blood pressure) occurred for all three procedures, indicating fear, stress, and/or distress. These literature reviews depict a life where chronic lack of stimulation is exacerbated by regular stressful episodes. Resulting physiological (e.g., stunted brain development) and behavioural symptoms (e.g., stereotypies) undermine the already tenuous predictability and repeatability of animal studies intended to inform human health.

Link to journal: Alternatives to Laboratory Animals