I’ve been an avid reader and collector of The Enrichment Record from the first issue, and I was delighted when Jayne asked me to be the first guest editor. When it comes to promoting enrichment, I get very frustrated by the lack of awareness within the general scientific community of the growing body of literature on enrichment evaluation—and also by the way in which information about housing and care is often regarded as irrelevant, with nowhere near enough exchange of ideas or mention in publications.
But attitudes and awareness are both changing for the better, and The Enrichment Record does a fantastic job of helping to get the message out there in a way that is accessible to all. I want to use this issue to take the opportunity of having a look at some current issues and ‘seizing the day’ with respect to promoting enrichment.
This was prompted by the revision of two major documents that influence the way in which millions of laboratory animals are housed and cared for globally; the new European Union (EU) Directive (2010/63/EU) and the US Institute for Laboratory Animal Resources (ILAR) Guide, which were published in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Both of these include increased emphasis on providing enrichment that is species-appropriate and reflects current knowledge, as explained in the articles by Axel Kornerup Hansen and Dorte Bratbo Sørensen, of the University of Copenhagen, and by the Global Enrichment Committee at Abbott Laboratories, Illinois.
The revisions of the Directive and Guide should prompt facilities to review their provision of enrichment for all species, and reflect on what they currently provide and how this might be improved upon, and I believe that many will do just that. However, there has been a disappointing backlash from some organizations, which have objected on the grounds that providing enrichment costs money and they are not convinced of the welfare benefits. My overall impression, on the basis of my involvement in the revision of the Directive and the high level of liaison that my organization has with working scientists and animal technologists and care staff, is that most people do take the view that enrichment benefits animals and that this is worth investing in.
However, many assumptions are made about the impact of enrichment on both welfare and science, and it is of course essential to evaluate these, as discussed in the article by Gilly Griffin of the Canadian Council on Animal Care. Whether providing enrichment can actually help to reduce suffering experienced by animals undergoing procedures is also worth some serious consideration, and is a highly topical question in relation to the focus on the animal’s lifetime experience in the new EU Directive. Christina Winnicker and Brianna Gaskill of Charles River have examined this issue for us.
Another topical subject included in this edition is enrichment for genetically altered (GA) mice, which is of major importance in relation to laboratory animal welfare because of the sheer number of animals involved— which is still increasing globally year-on-year1. Anne Fawcett of the University of Sydney, New South Wales, explains how enrichment can be tailored to different GA mouse lines with individual needs. Our other animal-specific article is on enrichment for cephalopods, whose use will be regulated EU-wide for the first time when the new Directive is implemented on 1 January 2013. Jennifer Mather, of the University of Lethbridge, explains how to give cephalopodsa good quality of life.
Finally—and to come full circle to the beginning of this editorial— it’s high time that information about enrichment was fully recognized as an essential component of the materials and methods section of papers, posters and talks. My RSPCA colleague Nikki Osborne gives us a snapshot of the status quo and outlines what improvements are needed to achieve better information sharing for all.
The articles in this edition of The Enrichment Record have come from people working in a wide range of different countries and contexts. All support the principle that carefully considered and appropriate enrichment promotes better welfare and therefore better science—and their articles illustrate that this is sufficiently important to be translated into legislation and regulatory guidelines. Yet adequate enrichment is still not universally applied. There are likely to be a number of reasons, and thus no one way to tackle this problem— a combination of legislation, advocacy and communication is likely to be required. Perhaps this would be another issue for The Enrichment Record to tackle!
I’ve really enjoyed my temporary editorship and I would like to thank all of the authors for agreeing so readily to write for this edition and for making it such a useful and thought-provoking read. We hope you enjoy it!
Research Animals Department
Penny Hawkins, BSc., Ph.D., The Enrichment Record’s first guest editor is Deputy Head of the Research Animals Department in the Science Group of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)—the UK’s leading animal welfare nonprofit organization. She works to promote refinements to improve animal housing and care—especially rodents and birds—and to assess the welfare of laboratory animals. Other key areas include refining procedures to reduce suffering, animal use in fundamental (basic biology) research, and the ethics of animal experimentation. She is a member of the Animal Procedures Committee (APC), the body that advises the secretary of state on the implementation of the UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Penny has also been involved in the revision of the European guidelines for laboratory animal husbandry, and the development of the new regulations on animal use for EU Directive 2010/63/EU.