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Open AccessArticle

“But It’s Just a Fish”: Understanding the Challenges of Applying the 3Rs in Laboratory Aquariums in the UK

School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK
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Animals 2019, 9(12), 1075; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121075
Received: 29 October 2019 / Revised: 27 November 2019 / Accepted: 28 November 2019 / Published: 3 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue 60 Years of the Three Rs and Their Impact on Animal Welfare)
Fish are widely used in research and some species have become important model organisms in the biosciences. Despite their importance, their welfare has usually been less of a focus of public interest or regulatory attention than the welfare of more familiar terrestrial and mammalian laboratory animals; indeed, the use of fish in experiments has often been viewed as ethically preferable or even neutral. Adopting a social science perspective and qualitative methodology to address stakeholder understandings of the problem of laboratory fish welfare, this paper examines the underlying social factors and drivers that influence thinking, priorities and implementation of fish welfare initiatives and the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) for fish. Illustrating the case with original stakeholder interviews and experience of participant observation in zebrafish facilities, this paper explores some key social factors influencing the take up of the 3Rs in this context. Our findings suggest the relevance of factors including ambient cultural perceptions of fish, disagreements about the evidence on fish pain and suffering, the language of regulators, and the experiences of scientists and technologists who develop and put the 3Rs into practice. The discussion is focused on the UK context, although the main themes will be pertinent around the world.
Adopting a social science perspective and qualitative methodology on the problem of laboratory fish welfare, this paper examines some underlying social factors and drivers that influence thinking, priorities and implementation of fish welfare initiatives and the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) for fish. Drawing on original qualitative interviews with stakeholders, animal technologists and scientists who work with fish—especially zebrafish—to illustrate the case, this paper explores some key social factors influencing the take up of the 3Rs in this context. Our findings suggest the relevance of factors including ambient cultural perceptions of fish, disagreements about the evidence on fish pain and suffering, the discourse of regulators, and the experiences of scientists and animal technologists who develop and put the 3Rs into practice. The discussion is focused on the UK context, although the main themes will be pertinent around the world. View Full-Text
Keywords: 3Rs; social science; qualitative analyses; fish; zebrafish; society-animal relations 3Rs; social science; qualitative analyses; fish; zebrafish; society-animal relations
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MDPI and ACS Style

Message, R.; Greenhough, B. “But It’s Just a Fish”: Understanding the Challenges of Applying the 3Rs in Laboratory Aquariums in the UK. Animals 2019, 9, 1075.

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