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A Kind Way to Kill Lab Animals? Researchers Ask the Wrong Question

A Kind Way to Kill Lab Animals? Researchers Ask the Wrong Question

It might be a little late in the game to be figuring this out, but researchers are concerned that the current methods used to kill lab animals may not be the least stressful or painful options, which is causing unnecessary suffering.

Experts from around the world gathered again in the UK in a meeting backed by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) to debate this issue. They attempted to reach a unanimous agreement on what the most humane method is based on current knowledge, in addition to identifying which areas need more exploration, reports Nature.

While a number of species are used in research around the world, most of the meeting will reportedly be centered around rodents who make up the bulk of animals who are used in experiments. Some of the current methods used to kill them include gas chambers, lethal injection, cervical dislocation (breaking necks) and decapitation.

Gas chamber euthanasia, which was expected to be a hot topic at the meeting, has been denounced by hundreds of animal advocacy organizations, including the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, over concerns about the level of stress and suffering it causes companion animals. Unfortunately, gassing is a quick and dirty way to “dispatch” many animals at once, and while it’s been banned in many areas for companion animals, it has continued to be used on lab animals despite welfare concerns.

Meeting organizer Huw Golledge, who studies lab animal anesthesia at Newcastle University said,People do still worry about CO2 and its still almost certainly the most widely used method [for killing rodents].

The practice of gassing animals was visited at the last meeting in 2006, when the majority of scientists participating agreed that there is no “ideal” way to kill animals with carbon dioxide and there are a number of problems with using it that cause animals to panic and suffer before they lose consciousness. They also pointed out that when it comes to rats, they share the same receptors we do and would in theory perceive being gassed the same way a human would.

This time around, they’ll also be discussing aversion studies, including one conducted by Daniel Weary, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, that showed rodents find being exposed to carbon dioxide stressful and will choose to move away from a dark compartment filling with the gas into a brightly lit box, despite disliking bright lights.

In the end, euthanasia is supposed to mean a “good death” that causes minimal pain and stress and rapidly induces unconsciousness and death using methods that are believed to be appropriate for the species in question. However, even when it’s used to end the life of an animal whose suffering cannot be alleviated, there are still ethical concerns.

To debate the “kindest” way to kill animals after intentionally causing their suffering in order to determine what is morally acceptable and develop guidelines about how to do it seems kind of moot. For the millions of animals who are suffering unheard and locked in cages behind closed doors waiting for whatever will be done to them next, guidelines likely don’t mean much.

At the end of July, NC3Rs pledged £4.8 million in funding for grants to develop non-animal testing methods and technologies. Maybe the organization could devote more time on developing an actionable plan to reduce the number of animals in experiments, which is on the rise, and ensure that they are not being used where alternatives exist instead of debating the best way to kill them after torturing them.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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2:20AM PST on Dec 4, 2013

One word: stupid. Thanks for the article.

7:19PM PDT on Oct 27, 2013

How about a kind way to euthanize all these fake "researchers" and "vivisectors"? If they weren't indulging in their favorite bloodsport they would be cleaning toilets or failing that, stalking kids on playgrounds. They are not professionals or "educated" in the slightest, "vivisectors" are without exception, criminals who should be behind bars.

12:26PM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

Not all medicines tested on animals successfully work on humans, even medicines can have a different effect on various people. We should have respect to all sentient beings by keeping a good diet and exercise to avoid sickness and try herbal/natural healing instead. All things considered.

7:14AM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

Why do vivisectors use euphemisms for appalling, unnecessary and terrible cruelty? Surely, if they truly believed in what they did they would be upfront and let the world know. For example, Huntingdon Life Sciences, is not self-explanatory, neither is the Primate Research Centre in Oxford - this sounds like they are concerned about primates.

Vivisection is a capitalist enterprise nothing more. A lot of the donations given to well-known charities would dry-up, if what happened behind closed doors ever came out into the open.

Also, if cures were found (which I believe there to have been), the CEO would lose his outrageous salary and join the unemployment queue.

9:15AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

signed, thanks for sharing

12:05PM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Прекратить пытки и жестокость по отношению к животным, грызунам и т.д. Сколько может продолжаться эта несправедливость?!

7:02PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

. Find alternatives. It's possible. No more tests.

6:07AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013


4:51AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

Killing is never kind; respect life

4:04AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

Now they are worried? Better late than never, I guess. But most of those experiments wouldn't need animals to succeed...

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