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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Comprehensive Assessment of Harms Caused by Experimental, Teaching and Testing Procedures on Live Animals

David J. Mellor

The comprehensiveness of assessments of experimental, teaching and testing harms, and the actions taken to minimise them, are measures of the scientist’s acceptance of ethical responsibility for all features of each procedure that affect animals adversely. A system, refined from its original 1994 form, has been devised to assist in this process. Five “domains of potential animal welfare compromise” are identified. Domain 1 is Water deprivation, food deprivation, malnutrition; Domain 2 is Environmental challenge; Domain 3 is Disease, injury, functional impairment; Domain 4 is Behavioural, interactive restriction; and Domain 5 is Anxiety, fear, pain, distress, thirst, hunger and boredom. A proposal would be examined systematically in all these domains, and the degree of compromise in each rated on a five-step, non-numerical scale — O, A, B, C, X. Anxiety, fear, pain, distress, thirst, hunger and boredom arising from compromise in Domains 1–4, would be cumulated into Domain 5. The overall rating would commonly be that given to Domain 5, but if this were low or unknown, it would be given to the highest rating in the other domains. Each experimental group in a study would be rated so that compromise overall would neither be underestimated nor overestimated. Both the researcher and the animal ethics committee would rate each group in these terms.