University of Calgary
UofC Navigation


A Good Life for Laboratory Animals

On Friday, January 17, 2014 Dr. Daniel Weary will discuss animal welfare and the ethics of animal use in research. To date, he says, almost all discussion on the ethics of animal use in research has revolved around the balance of harms (to the animals) versus benefits (to us) associated with conducting the research. For this reason, most research on the welfare of laboratory animals has focused on harm reduction, including methods of handling and euthanasia that are less likely to cause pain or distress. After reviewing recent examples of this approach, Dr. Weary has concluded that this approach is necessary but not sufficient.

Focus in the animal welfare literature is now shifting from simply reducing harms that we cause to animals to promoting positive experiences; the question has become "do the animals under our care experience a good life?" Achieving a good life may require that we provide environments that allow animals to express natural behaviours that they are motivated to perform and provide opportunities for positive emotional experiences, such that positive experiences far outweigh negative ones.

Recent research in animal welfare science has begun to develop methods for identifying and assessing positive emotional states and assessing how animals view their own condition. Judgments regarding a good life for laboratory animals ultimately require public input, and researchers must seek out effective methods for informed engagement with the public on the quality of living conditions we provide for the animals under our care.

In conversation with Dr. Daniel Weary:

Daniel Weary

In lay terms, tell us about your research and its impact.

My research focuses on improving the welfare of animals, especially those used in agriculture and in research. A specific interest has been in developing novel methods of assessing the welfare of animals.

What are the take away messages you want the audience to leave with?

To achieve a better life for animals used in research we need to:

  • Understand the needs and wants of the animals we use in research
  • Apply refinements and benchmark their benefits
  • Ask ourselves if we have provided a good life for our animals, and
  • Show that this assessment is shared with our society.

What else are you working on / researching?

I’m also researching the effects of housing and management on behaviour, health and affective state; effects of social housing on cognition; public and professional attitudes to agricultural and scientific practices involving animals; humane killing of lab animals; and pain assessment and prevention.

Learn more

Presented on January 17, 2014.