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.
Received: 29 May 2020 / Revised: 29 June 2020 / Accepted: 30 June 2020 / Published: 3 July 2020
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.