internal process for reviewing the pain and distress caused or alleviated and the measures taken. I believe the problem is not so much with the definition (although the regulators will claim to need it for their legal basis) but in the implementation and outcome.
The HSUS report also mentions that laboratory personnel can develop distancing mechanisms that help them cope but that often lead to people overlooking pain and distress. I want to make the point that distancing mechanisms are really a poor substitute for refinement. We could have not cared about how the sheep were doing, but in finding a better sedative for them, everyone was happier.
One major problem is the “disconnect” between the scientific community (including myself and others here from the scientific community), the investigators, and those who are developing and refining techniques. Are the investigators responsible for reading the refinement literature? They will say they have too much to do, and it is an admittedly difficult problem.
I think this disconnect is something that can be helped by training laboratory animal personnel in these methods, ensuring that they have a solid foundation. I actually took aside a college student who was working in our facility for the summer, and in 20 minutes, I was able to teach her to recognize more of pain and distress (pain in particular) than the investigator had led her to understand.
HSUS also states correctly that there is limited published information about animals' experience of pain, distress, and suffering caused by typical laboratory procedures. I believe it was Dr. Zurlo, in a talk last year, who called my attention to a paper by Jane Smith and colleagues (Smith and others, 1997), which surveyed the biomedical literature and found that frequently you cannot tell what was done to animals by reading the published reports. I think that is a real problem because where else are the investigators getting their information?
In reading biomedical journals (which I now do fairly critically), I find many times that things were done and there is no mention of analgesics; there is no mention of whether the study was approved. I looked at one veterinary journal and found a paper written by at least two veterinarians in whose study dogs were anesthetized by mask isofluorane. They may have had very different dogs from those in my experience, because a dog with no premedication is quite difficult to mask down without a struggle. Then the authors had implants placed and to do that, they tunneled them from the neck to the flank and then turned them over, opened the abdomen, and implanted them into organs in the abdomen. Recovery was uneventful. That was it. No mention of analgesics or even whether the animals were euthanized at the end of the study. You can see that there is a big problem with what the authors actually reported doing to the animals. There is no mention of whether a few animals were lost due to problems with the technique in the beginning.