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Focus on Severe Suffering - Meetings

First international meeting

Focus on Severe Suffering Meeting booklet © RSPCA

On 16 and 17 June 2016, 150 delegates from 24 countries gathered in Brussels for an event aiming to share knowledge, discuss new ideas, and promote approaches and practical steps to help reduce or avoid severe suffering in animals used in research and testing.

Participants included representatives of the European Commission, of government authorities involved in the regulation of animal research, members of National Committees on animal experiments, members of local Animal Welfare Bodies at establishments, veterinarians, scientists, animal facility managers, animal technologists, representatives from 3Rs centres, and individuals involved in education and training.

Focus on Severe Suffering Meeting © RSPCA

Discussions focused on how pain, suffering and distress are currently identified and assessed in animals, with information sharing on recent progress in refining procedures and animal care across a range of ‘models’, tests, techniques and species so that severe suffering can be reduced or avoided. Future opportunities for refinement were considered, along with current potential scientific and other obstacles that will need to be overcome.

A summary report has been produced for the Brussels (PDF 108KB) meeting and the presentations from the events can be requested by emailing

Second international meeting

Focus on Severe Suffering Meeting in Berlin © RSPCA

In October 2017, the RSPCA once again brought together people from a range of roles to share knowledge and promote new approaches to avoiding severe suffering. This second meeting was held in Berlin in association with the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association and involved around 120 delegates from 16 countries. The two-day event began with a welcome from the RSPCA and an opening address by ethicist Professor Jens Reich.

The main focus on the first day was a series of case studies in which severe suffering had been successfully reduced. Day One concluded with an engaging and thought-provoking keynote presentation from philosopher Professor Herwig Grimm on the harm-benefit assessment. 

The second day provided an opportunity for speakers to present and discuss study areas where challenges and obstacles to reducing or avoiding severe suffering still remain. The event finished with presentations considering prospective severity of procedures, communicating with the public about harms and severe suffering, and reviewing the role of Animal Welfare Bodies, National Committees and others in sharing good practice, plus a general discussion session.

A summary report has been produced for the Berlin (PDF 433KB) meeting and the presentations from the events can be requested by emailing

We hope to organise additional meetings in the future and welcome suggestions for topics via email at

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