Promoting effective welfare assessment
Pain, suffering or distress cannot be adequately relieved unless it is effectively recognised. 'Welfare assessment' refers to recognising, assessing and monitoring pain, suffering and distress as well as detecting positive welfare. Indicators of positive welfare include animals exercising, using enrichment items and socialising appropriately, and it is good practice to encourage this as well as to reduce suffering.
Assessing animal welfare requires time, expertise, training, a good system for observing animals and recording observations, and teamwork from a range of people with different priorities and knowledge - such as researchers, animal technologists and veterinarians.
We set up an expert Working Group which produced guidance to help establishments achieve more effective welfare assessment.
The guidance supports the principle of describing welfare concerns in a standard way, using consistent language. One example is the Mouse Welfare Terms project, which includes a list of agreed terms for laboratory mice.
The RSPCA represented Eurogroup for Animals on the European Commission (EC) Expert Group addressing welfare (severity) assessment, which completed its working document in 2012 and a set of worked examples in 2013. The EC documents promote many of the principles in our own Working Group's report on welfare assessment and are used across the Member States of the European Union.
We were also involved in a working group set up by Norecopa, the Norwegian national platform for the 3Rs, to develop guidance on the severity classification of scientific procedures involving fish - download the report.