Nonetheless, the argument is currently moot because we simply do not have much behavioral data on which to even start a debate.
Weight loss is a measure that we increasingly believe has a lot of promise as a screen for stress and distress. It is a relatively simple measure, and it is easy to obtain. Most stresses induce a transient decrease in feeding, an increase in the metabolic rate, and a negative energy balance due apparently to a biomechanism involving the actions of corticotrophin releasing factor and local cytokines (Dallman 2000). We have few data on weight loss in different experimental situations, and each strain of rat or mouse is likely to produce a different standard growth curve. In the HSUS white paper, we state that weight loss is a relatively insensitive measure. However, we retract that claim and now recognize that it can be very sensitive indeed. We will be pushing weight measurements as a simple way to promote both better science and less animal distress.
In terms of changes to the system, we absolutely must have adequate definitions. Dr. DeHaven provided a definition of distress this morning. Whether that definition is the right one is something we all need to discuss, as I am sure Dr. DeHaven agrees.
We must establish consistent reporting practices and report pain and distress when it occurs. The HSUS is concerned that if we are not reporting pain and distress when it occurs, then we are not paying attention to it. Of course, simply reporting such pain and distress does not guarantee that it will be attended to, but at least we would know that it was not being overlooked due to lack of attention.
We would like to see three grades of pain and distress—minor, moderate, and severe. The reason we would like to see reporting of all three grades is because we think we can focus our attention on severe distress and start studying how we can refine the technology to reduce that grade to moderate and then, eventually, to mild. Reporting severe pain and distress permits us to set priorities for research and action.
We need to support research on distress identification and alleviation. Such research might include more studies of weight loss and behavior in different research situations. The generation of more data then needs to be followed by broad-based discussions to determine cut-offs for the different categories. The fact that establishing such cut-offs will be difficult and involve some uncertainty is no reason why we should not start the process.
We need to support claims of action with real data. Such data is not something that the HSUS will be able to develop; such data will only be developed in laboratories and research facilities. Most of you already have access to such data anyway. We simply need to identify the personnel time to collect and analyze it.
We are pleased that attention to the pain and distress issue is growing. We