The Tamarind Fund and the Mollylou Foundation have donated more than $800,000 to the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing to establish a grants program focused on pain assessment and management in laboratory animals. It is the first major program of its kind in the United States.
The purpose of this new program is to initiate research aimed at decreasing pain, distress and suffering in animals used for biomedical-toxicological research. It also will address the similarities between animals and humans in this regard, both drawing on studies done in humans and contributing to our understanding of human pain and distress.
Concerns over animal welfare have prompted an interest in this area of research. Public opinion polls demonstrate that while people support the use of animals in biomedical research, that support drops dramatically when laboratory animals experience unrelieved pain or distress.
As long as we must use animals to ensure the health of human beings, we must take care to eliminate pain and distress whenever possible, says Alan M. Goldberg, CAAT director. To do this, we must understand how to identify pain and distress and how to deal with it effectively.
Decreasing pain and distress associated with the use of laboratory animals is an important goal for scientists as well as for activists. Pain and distress experienced by animals can obscure an experiment, making it impossible to evaluate data collected from these animals. Scientific excellence requires the elimination of any factors, such as pain, that may confound the results.
An animal in pain--just like a human being--can differ in a variety of ways from an animal that is pain-free, Goldberg explains. It may eat less, move differently, even breathe differently. A mouse in pain or distress often will have very different blood chemistry from another mouse, even if both animals are identical in every other way. These differences can create problems for research results. This is why we believe that the most humane science is also the best science.
The program initially will fund four grants at $25,000 per year. To jump-start the program, the following investigators known for their animal welfare work have been invited to become the first recipients of funds in the CAAT Program Project on Refinement:
Norman C. Peterson of Johns Hopkins received funding for his project on Genomic Approaches to Defining Pain and Distress in Mice.
Alicia Z. Karas of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine received funding for her project on Reducing Postoperative Pain and Distress in Mice.
Hal Markowitz and Clifford Roberts of the University of California, San Francisco, have received a grant for a project on Differential Effects of Environmental Enrichment for Mice.
Bert van Zutphen and Vera Baumans of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, received a grant for their project on Measures to Reduce Stress Caused by Experimental Procedures.