Assessing pain, suffering and distress in laboratory animals: an RSPCA survey of current practice in the UK
A survey was undertaken to evaluate how animal discomfort, pain, suffering and distress are recognised and assessed in UK scientific procedure establishments. In total, twenty-eight establishments were visited between 1999 and 2001 and 137 people participated, including animal technicians,
veterinarians and scientists. The full results, conclusions and recommendations of the survey have been published elsewhere (Hawkins 2002). The study showed that people are concerned about animal suffering, want to be able to prevent and alleviate it, and are aware that there are a number
of practical problems that need to be overcome. These include animals concealing clinical signs, which leads to difficulties in detecting incipient discomfort and distress, and human subjectivity when assessing animals. The clinical signs used as indicators of potential pain, suffering and
distress are largely subjective. Participants at all establishments agree that a 'team' approach to animal monitoring is the best way to ensure consistency and effectiveness. All twenty-eight establishments use clinical observation sheets to assist with animal assessment and monitoring, nine
also use score sheets and seven use computerised data management systems. This paper concludes with recommendations based on the survey findings, with respect to monitoring techniques, assessment protocols and training issues, which aim to facilitate more effective animal assessment and monitoring.