Refinement Workshop Recap

Reducing Severity: Implementation of supportive care measures in animal experiments

Research experiments may induce varying levels of pain, distress or suffering in the lab animals used. Refinement methods can reduce such suffering, improve animal welfare and significantly help to reduce the actual severity of specific scientific procedures and models. On February 27th, 2023 the Swiss 3RCC organized a live online Refinement workshop on reducing severity through the implementation of supportive care measures in animal experiments. During this half-day, several international experts introduced simple supportive measures and concrete refinement strategies to reduce suffering and improve animal welfare within different research areas and gave participants the opportunity to exchange refinement options for their own experiments with peers and experts.

Dr. Susi Heiden, from the University of Basel, opened with a history of Swiss Animal Welfare Law, the Animal Welfare Act, the Animal Welfare Ordinance, and how they relate to the 3Rs principle, and especially refinement.

Dr. Anne Zintzsch, from the University of Basel, presented the concept of "Culture of Care" and the Swiss “Culture of Care Charter”, followed by some practical examples of how to promote a good Culture of Care in research institutions, for a better environment for both the animals and humans.

Dr. Penny Hawkins, from the UK RSPCA, introduced the Roadmap approach to reducing and avoiding 'severe' suffering, applicable to all "severe" models or experiments, and transposable to all facilities. A poster recapitulating the Roadmap is available for download and has been translated into French and German by the Swiss 3RCC.

Through case studies, international experts Dr. Claire Hankenson, Dr. Ronaldo Ichiyama, Dr. Richard Williams and Dr. Colin Gilbert, shared their knowledge and experiences on refining experiments with rodent models of Biomedical diseases (spinal cord injury, rheumatoid arthritis, bone marrow ablation and reconstitution, surgery, etc.). They showed that refinement can be implemented through protocol adjustments, proper analgesia, non-invasive in vivo imaging, close monitoring of clinical signs, defining of humane endpoints, etc. They also stressed the importance of considering potential cumulative effects, and how essential it is for every experimenter to be properly trained for each task. Their experiences showed that, when implemented all along an animal's life (during breeding, acclimatization, experimentation, termination, care for littermates, etc.), careful refinement can significantly reduce the severity of a procedure from a lab animal’s perspective.

The workshop ended with a discussion on how to further reduce severity in animal research, which highlighted the need for homogenized guidelines on and how to refine experiments as well as the utilization of more targeted funding, such as the Swiss 3RCC's Refinement grant.  

Considering the great interest in this event, which was overbooked in less than 2 days, and gathered about 100 participants, another edition will take place in the upcoming months, stay tuned!