Rights: The University of Waikato Published 21 November 2007 Download

Auckland University's Dr Love explains why research animals are well cared for.


Don Love (Auckland University): Merely having an animal in an enclosed environment is one that is not the lowest of the low [degree of suffering]. Already you have imposed some insult on their environment, so you have to take that into account.

In terms of mouse experiments, rodent experiments, you could have a high degree of suffering. It could be brain surgery, for example. And that brain surgery is undertaken in exactly the same as those undertaking brain surgery at Auckland Hospital. You would need anaesthesia, properly monitored. You need analgesia, properly undertaken. A sterile environment. You need monitoring through the operation, and post-operative monitoring. So this is a continuum of monitoring the animal welfare throughout the entire process.

Once it’s come out of post operative monitoring, it’s monitored still in terms of returning to the cage. How frequently do you monitor that animal! What outcomes are you interested in identifying if the mouse is unwell?

With our work in zebrafish, what sort of outcomes are you looking for in a crook fish? It could be the way it’s swimming. It could be the way it relates to others within the tank. So there are subtle indicators there, that for those experienced in zebrafish or fish – and we have such people – would say that those signs are adverse signs and so we have to do something about that.

And if you don’t, well, you’ve just contravened your animal ethics committee approval. And this is not good. So we are very keen to monitor adverse outcomes. Yes, you could say, Oh it complies. Are you really doing that? In fact, yes, we are indeed doing that! We want to do that. We want to do it because it’s no use having a crook fish or a crook animal. So we say this is the insult [the manipulation]; we expect these outcomes. Anything adverse, in terms of behaviour or response, you had better do something and we do.

And you then proceed with a certain time frame with your treatment, and if nothing gets better then you kill the animal. And then you could report back to the committee and say we anticipated these outcomes from these experiments, but we detect more serious outcomes, so we are going to tell you about this.