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 © RSPCADiscussions 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 © RSPCAIn 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

UK meeting: 'Challenging Refinements'

In April 2019 we held a meeting in Stevenage, UK on strategies for refining models and procedures in which this can be challenging (e.g. humane endpoints in regulatory tests and analgesia provision in pain models). The meeting focused on a series of case studies by speakers from industry and academia, highlighting how pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm has been successfully reduced or avoided in specific models or procedures.

Topics included neuropathic pain, collagen-induced arthritis, experimental diabetes, evident toxicity in regulatory tests and environmental toxicity testing in fish. In addition, there was a presentation on how local AWERBs can assist in developing strategies to apply refinement in 'challenging' models. The meeting closed with a discussion session directed towards strategies to improve dissemination of information on refinement.

A summary report has been produced Challenging Refinements Summary (PDF 356KB) and the presentations can be requested by emailing

Third international meeting

In October 2019, we held our third international meeting on our 'Focus on Severe Suffering' initiative in association with the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, Greece. The main programme was based on the content of a recent publication from RSPCA, LASA, LAVA and IAT entitled 'Avoiding mortality in animal research and testing'. This report covers three main areas: reducing the numbers of animals 'found dead'; reducing unpredicted mortality of animals being used in procedures; and challenging perceived requirements for 'death as an endpoint' in studies and tests.

This two-day meeting brought together 100 delegates from 16 countries. The event opened with a welcome from Barney Reed of the RSPCA and an introduction from Dr Nikos Kostomitsopoulos from BRFAA. Speakers discussed a range of approaches to avoid mortality, and shared examples of how they had successfully reduced severe suffering in their own study areas. The second day focussed on specific issues, such as mortality in very young or older animals, and genetically altered animals.

A summary report (PDF 316KB) has been produced for the Athens meeting, and the presentations can be requested by emailing

UK meeting: 'Focus on Fish'

In March 2020 we are holding a meeting in Edinburgh, UK on the welfare of fish used in scientific research. The meeting will focus on efforts to reduce suffering, with an emphasis on general refinements, welfare assessment, and humane endpoints. Delegates will be able to share experience and expertise and will take away practical recommendations and action points for applying refinements.Topics already confirmed include refinement strategies for laboratory zebrafish, the social and physical environment of wild zebrafish, and monitoring fish for clinical signs. 

For more information and to register please download this poster (PDF 212KB).

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