The informal introductory comments of Drs. Baumans and Vandenbergh stimulated immediate discussion. Dr. Baumans discussed the pros and cons of enrichment, emphasizing the necessities for taking into account the normal behavior of each species and for evaluating enrichment methods. Dr. Vandenbergh elaborated on this point noting that guidelines must have a positive strategy; they should identify a scientific basis and measure outcome appropriately; and they should be performance based. This combination of requirements poses larger issues in that it is difficult to define what to measure, what the approach should be, and how to interpret the findings. Cortisol, for example, is not the Holy Grail to indicate the extent of animal welfare. Stress and steroid responses have both good and bad effects, depending on circumstance. Dr. Vandenbergh further indicated that guidelines must not be based on subjective measurements; they must garner respect of the scientific community and must have sensitivity to the needs of science.
Participants felt that guidelines, and the creation of new guidelines, must encourage and stimulate science. Institutional animal care and use committees, for example, could help facilitate science by filling voids in the knowledge base by encouraging needed studies that are specific to their institutions or needs. Rigid regulations or interpretation of guidelines as such tend to place restrictions on process, thus yielding less science-based information. Primate enrichment guidelines are a good example. Enrichment programs are required, but the institution is left to
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be creative in implementing an enrichment plan. This situation encourages creative approaches in lieu of standardized and intrusive regulations.
Nevertheless, the argument was advanced by some in the group that it may be necessary to establish standards before scientific proof, thereby stimulating research. However, the group also emphasized that in the absence of scientific information, standards should be more general, thereby stimulating research leading to more specific standards. There was divided opinion on this subject.
The group discussed sources of funding for developing science-based guidelines. Several options were mentioned, including the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.
The discussion elucidated the reality of laboratory animal welfare. Clear differences exist between Europe and the United States, as well as Asia. The European approach emphasizes detailed regulations that tend to be inflexible, whereas the US and Canadian approaches are based on general guidelines that encourage new approaches and flexibility. The Japanese approach is more cultural and is based on respect of animals and Buddhist philosophy. There is misunderstanding of the US and European policies, and there is misunderstanding of our own respective systems. Shorthand versions of more complex guidelines and regulations tend to be used. Some Europeans stated that there is public pressure for change, and thus they cannot wait for science. This discussion led to considerable response that such an approach is frightening and does not serve anyone well.
An additional caveat discussed is that species-specific behaviors on which guidelines and regulations are built are also significant variables. Although basic behavior is retained, domestication inbreeding has adapted animals to the research environment, and there is marked strain-related variation among rodents. Therefore, some participants felt that science-based guidelines should take this adaptation into consideration. Transgenic animals create new challenges. It is dangerous to "lump" rodents, particularly different strains of rodents, together.
It was also noted that many things that make animals "happy" are not necessarily good for them. Drug abuse preference or measurements of brain pleasure centers underscore this concept.
In summary, more questions arise than answers. What should we measure? Who should measure? Who should fund the work? How should the work be funded? How can the general scientific community be rallied to assist? There are no easy answers. (For consideration of these questions see the discussion following the Point/Counterpoint session on p. 201.)
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