Recently, I’ve heard some respected colleagues complain that “Enrichment is a distraction.” This simple statement drives me to distraction.
When pressed to clarify, these nay-sayers default to the narrow view that EE is all about the toys. What they don’t or maybe can’t do is explain in what way enrichment for captive animals interferes with their work, slows down the science or diminishes a compliant animal research program.
Way back at the end of the last century (1995), enrichment was described as an “improvement in the biological functioning of captive animals resulting from modifications to their environment.” (Newberry, p. 230)1. The focus is not on entertainment, but rather on providing adjustments determined according to what is normal for each species under natural circumstances. It’s about enhancing animal well-being through enabling the expression of instinctive species-specific behaviors.
There are challenges to be sure. However, as spelled out in an article on the history of enrichment in the ILAR Guide for the Care & Use of Laboratory Animals in the July issue of this E-Zine: “Development of enrichment strategies based on sound scientific data will ensure that enrichment does not become a deterrent to good science and actually promotes better science and animal welfare.”
So what’s the problem?
Isn’t there enough time? Is it a question of resources, human and/or financial? Is it just human nature to resist change? Perhaps we need to provide a cost-benefit analysis to satisfy the die-hards who still don’t get it!
I invite readers to share strategies for driving acceptance of the growing body of scientific evidence that supports the importance and value of species-specific environmental enrichment for lab animals. All comments are welcome here.
Jayne Mackta, Publisher
President & CEO, Global Research Education & Training, LLC (GR8)
1. Newberry RC. 1995. Environmental enrichment: Increasing the environmental relevance of captive environments. Appl Anim Behav Sci 44:229-243.