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Ending severe suffering

Sick mouse ©

The level of pain or distress experienced by animals used in experiments depends upon the nature of the research, and within the European Union (EU) is classified as mild, moderate or severe. Any level of suffering is a concern for the RSPCA, but ending severe suffering is a top priority.

Working with the scientific community is very important if we are to produce innovative, challenging and feasible approaches to reducing and ultimately ending severe suffering.

What we are doing

We are developing and promoting ways of avoiding or reducing severe suffering, for which we need to identify:

  • The kinds of procedures that can cause severe suffering 
  • The factors that combine to increase the level of suffering to severe, such as pain, anxiety, restrictions on good practice for housing, or procedures lasting a long time 
  • The purpose of severe procedures, for example some vaccine tests, or studies of painful or distressing medical disorders 
  • Any perceived obstacles to reducing suffering 
  • And most importantly - what can be done to overcome these obstacles? 

We are currently researching the answers to these questions, which includes visiting a range of research establishments to discuss how they are tackling severe suffering and to collect case studies of successful solutions.

A series of RSPCA-led initiatives are already under way, including producing expert guidance for researchers on ways of reducing suffering in specific severe procedures; convening meetings and workshops on addressing severe suffering; and ensuring that the revised UK legislation on animal experiments is implemented so as to recognise, control and reduce severe suffering effectively.

We welcome invitations to visit establishments, further case studies or suggestions for topics or procedures that need to be addressed. Please contact: 


Some of our publications

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