Severity assessment from an animal's point of view
Project code: BfR-ZEBET-08-1350-021, LE2356/5-1, 321137804
Contract period: 01.01.2017 - 31.12.2019
Purpose of research: Inventory & Assessment
Keywords: animal experimentation
Severity assessment in animal experimentation is a complex biomedical and ethical issue and largely biased by uncertainty. The interpretation of physiological and behavioural measures in relation to animal welfare is difficult and often reflecting an educated gut feeling rather than scientifically sound conclusions. It is thus utmost important to include the perspective of the animals themselves into severity assessment. Choice and preference tests are a straight forward approach in asking the appraisal of different goods. However, preference for one good over another in itself does not necessarily indicate suffering if the access to the preferred good is denied. Nor can the overall severity of an experimental measurement be derived solely from the fact that the animal - if given the choice - would rather not participate in such a procedure. In order to gain a better understanding of the valence of choices made there is a demand for more sophisticated preference tests which allow estimating the strength of the respective preferences. A compelling approach to estimate the value of the choices made is to raise costs and compare the prices the animals are willing to pay. Using choice tests along with consumer demand theory, mice will be "asked" to rate the severity of experimental procedures themselves. Animals usually cannot choose to avoid experimental procedures and such experiences leave traces in internal emotional states. Although emotional states are usually not obvious to others, it has been demonstrated that they can be revealed using tests of cognitive bias. In brief, these tests shed light on the internal emotional state of an animal and ask if future expectations are "optimistic" or "pessimistic". Advancing these methods on testing cognitive bias in mice will allow a comprehensive severity assessment taking internal emotional states into account. Thus the set of measures proposed here will include the animal's point of view in severity assessment with regard to their preference and valence of future expectations.