A new study published on Sunday in the journal Nature Methods has concluded mice make facial expressions when they’re in pain.
Jeffrey Mogil at McGill University in Montreal, Canada worked with colleagues and Kenneth Craig, a psychologist who studies human pain at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, to develop a “mouse grimace scale.”
According to the Telegraph, This was done by injecting stomachs and paws with pain-inducing substances, including acetic acid, mustard oil, and capsaicin, the ”hot” ingredient in chillies.
Animals were also injected with a chemical that triggers bladder cystitis, and made to suffer nerve damage.
The ”pain faces” were identified by comparing video images of non-suffering mice with those in pain.
They were listed as: orbital tightening (eye squeezing), nose bulge – a rounded extension of skin on the bridge of the nose – bulging cheeks, ears drawn apart and back, and whiskers held against the face or standing on end.
This was apparently justified by saying that no study has ever been conducted to study facial reactions to pain, or to determine whether facial reactions were corresponding to being tortured, despite clear evidence that animals do make facial expressions to show emotion and communicate.
Mogil reportedly didn’t want the photos published because of the potential backlash from animal rights activists, but Wired’s got the photos, if you care to see the faces of bad science.
He was also right, people who care about animal suffering were outraged.
”People should be clear that this study was not in any way intended to improve or positively impact on the welfare of mice (or any other animal). It was not intended in anyway to mitigate painful situations for mice used in research, rather just to find a new way of determining if a mouse is showing signs of pain,” said Dr Ned Buyukmihci, veterinary adviser at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).
Maybe this study will have everyone thinking a little harder about why birds, rats and mice aren’t covered under the Animal Welfare Act, since they can suffer after all.