At NJABR’s recent Strategy Summit entitled Animal Research: Risks & Reality, keynote speaker Jerrold Tannenbaum cautioned the audience to be aware of shifts in language that have tremendous power to affect public perceptions and ultimately public policy. His focus on enrichment took me by surprise and got me thinking. He pointed out that when Russell and Burch introduced their now famous 3Rs in 1959, the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement were strategies for minimizing pain and/or distress in laboratory animals.
Over the years, the research community has embraced the 3Rs, which are intrinsic to good science methodology. We are always seeking better, faster, more efficient ways to move the process forward, including seeking ways to replace animals, reduce the number of animals used, and refine techniques.
Enrichment is a form of Refinement, which is described in the New Guide as “modifications of husbandry or experimental procedures to enhance animal well-being and minimize or eliminate pain and distress.” Note the expansion of the concept to animal well-being.
Enrichment itself has more to do with the animal’s environment where the emphasis is on promoting species-specific behaviors, which does affect well-being and implies minimizing or eliminating pain and distress. However, the focus on “providing animals with sensory and motor stimulation” and promoting “psychological well-being” represents quite a shift from the original meaning of the 3Rs and certainly ramps up the role of enrichment in the humane care of laboratory animals. As a community, we need to think about what we say we are doing and carefully watch our words. We struggle to equate the 3Rs with the term “alternatives” that is commonly understood to stand for efforts to replace animals. For some, replacement has become an end in itself. I think we must be careful not to let enrichment become just another weapon in the war of words to end animal research.
Jayne Mackta, Publisher
President & CEO, Global Research Education & Training, LLC (GR8)