WC8: Opening events
The 8th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences opened officially yesterday (Monday) with a ceremony featuring Canadian culture.
Among the performers were two Inuit throat singers. Throat singing is a traditional practice where performers sing together for fun, competition or as a game making sounds that resemble sounds in nature.
The plenary lecture 'Living the Good Life - How far can refinement Go?' was given by Dr Dan Weary, Professor of Applied Biology and Industrial Research Chair in Animal Welfare at the University of British Columbia.
Refinement is typically viewed as a means of reducing the harms to animals used in laboratory research, a key example being improved use of analgesics following experimental surgery.
I review other similar examples of recent research on refinements, including improved methods of handling and euthanasia, to show how science can be used to assess the effects of these refinements on the welfare of animals. Focus in the animal welfare literature is now shifting from simply reducing harms we cause to animals to promoting positive experiences. The question has now become: Do the animals under our care experience “a good life”?
Achieving a good life might require that we provide environments that allow animals to express natural behaviours that they are motivated to perform and provide opportunities for positive emotional experiences. The goal is that, on balance, positive experiences far outweigh any negative experiences. Our challenge now is in developing scientific methods that can address the question of a good life. Thus I also review recent research in animal welfare science that has begun to develop methods of identifying and assessing positive emotional states and assessing how the animal views its own condition.
I conclude that refinement research should increasingly focus on providing laboratory animals a good life, and that research focussed only on reducing harms should be viewed as insufficient.