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Welfare Assessment for Captive Anseriformes: A Guide for Practitioners and Animal Keepers

Behavioral Methods for Severity Assessment

German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), German Center for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R), 12277 Berlin, Germany
Institute of Animal Welfare, Animal Behavior and Laboratory Animal Science, Freie Universität Berlin, 14163 Berlin, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1136;
Received: 29 May 2020 / Revised: 29 June 2020 / Accepted: 30 June 2020 / Published: 3 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
In 2017, 9.4 million animals were used for research and testing in the European Union. Animal testing always entails the potential for harm caused to the animals. In order to minimize animal suffering, it is of ethical and scientific interest to have a research-based severity assessment of animal experiments. In the past, many methods have been developed to investigate animal suffering. Initially, the focus was on physiological parameters, such as body weight or glucocorticoids as an indicator of stress. In addition, the animals’ behavior has come more into focus and has been included as an indicator of severity. However, in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of animal suffering, an animal’s individual perspective should also be taken into account. Preference tests might be used, for example, to “ask” animals what they prefer, and providing such goods in turn allows, among other things, to improve housing conditions. In this review, different methods are introduced, which can be used to investigate and evaluate animal suffering and well-being with a special focus on animal-centric strategies.
It has become mandatory for the application for allowance of animal experimentation to rate the severity of the experimental procedures. In order to minimize suffering related to animal experimentation it is therefore crucial to develop appropriate methods for the assessment of animal suffering. Physiological parameters such as hormones or body weight are used to assess stress in laboratory animals. However, such physiological parameters alone are often difficult to interpret and leave a wide scope for interpretation. More recently, behavior, feelings and emotions have come increasingly into the focus of welfare research. Tests like preference tests or cognitive bias tests give insight on how animals evaluate certain situations or objects, how they feel and what their emotional state is. These methods should be combined in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the well-being of laboratory animals. View Full-Text
Keywords: severity assessment; animal welfare; refinement; preference test; cognitive bias severity assessment; animal welfare; refinement; preference test; cognitive bias
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MDPI and ACS Style

Kahnau, P.; Habedank, A.; Diederich, K.; Lewejohann, L. Behavioral Methods for Severity Assessment. Animals 2020, 10, 1136.

AMA Style

Kahnau P, Habedank A, Diederich K, Lewejohann L. Behavioral Methods for Severity Assessment. Animals. 2020; 10(7):1136.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kahnau, Pia, Anne Habedank, Kai Diederich, and Lars Lewejohann. 2020. "Behavioral Methods for Severity Assessment" Animals 10, no. 7: 1136.

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