UK scientist wins prize for improving animal welfare

25 January 2011

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Category: Animal welfare & alternatives

lab–rat–hand.jpgEach year the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) awards a prize for innovative research which has an impact on the use of animals in life sciences. Sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, the prize consists of a grant of £10k, plus a personal award of £1k.

Today the result of the 2010 prize was announced, as decided by a prestigious panel of scientists. Professor Jane Hurst, from the University of Liverpool, was awarded the prize for her study into handling laboratory mice. Her research was published in Nature Methods and shows that certain ways of handling laboratory mice can improve both the welfare of the animals and the quality of science.

The study shows that the practice of picking mice up by their tails can cause high levels of anxiety and stress. However Professor Hurst and her team found that by catching them in a plastic tunnel, or in cupped hands, there was a reduction in the level of anxiety.

Professor Hurst said: 'I hope our research will be universally implemented across laboratories to improve animal welfare for all mice and to minimise the effects of handling on experiments. This is a small change that is easily applied and will make a big difference to animal welfare. I thank the NC3Rs and GSK for the award, which will fund further work to improve handling methods.'

Understanding Animal Research applauds the NC3Rs. This prize demonstrates the excellent work being done by the scientific community on animal welfare. The paper has the potential to promote best practice across the entire mouse research community.

There are a number of videos available of the techniques.

Tail capture method:

Tunnel handling method:

Cup handling method on day 1 and on subsequent days: