studies and well-controlled experiments may be helpful in sorting out any confounding effects caused by either pain or by the pain-relieving drugs.
The complex nature of modern animal experimentation requires accurate reporting of animal use. I am sure that by now most people agree that the USDA categories are not totally informative. The public at large is especially concerned with the intensity and duration of any pain that research animals may have undergone in the course of experimentation, regardless of whether the animals received medication or not. Essentially, people want to know how much the animals really suffer. To provide that information accurately, the USDA categories would have to be changed or modified to resolve the public concern.
It is important to note that the alleviation of pain and/or distress is not limited just to the use of drugs. In fact, the alleviation of pain and distress is often a very diverse task that includes environmental enrichment, the provision of nesting material and social enhancement in addition to or in lieu of drugs. I was pleased to learn that the proposed changes to Policy 11 actually might include nondrug treatment modalities under Column D of the USDA annual report. Presently, animals experiencing pain or distress and for which drugs have been withheld for scientific reasons are automatically placed in column E (unalleviated pain and/or distress) regardless of whether other treatment approaches were used. Of course, the appropriate categorization of experiments can be made only after appropriate veterinary monitoring of the study in conjunction with the investigator and the IACUC.
Laboratory animal veterinarians, animal care personnel, and investigators have a legal as well as moral obligation to alleviate pain and distress in animals. Alternatives to animal use in biomedical research should also be sought. Investigators will generally not use animals unless they have no other viable alternatives or unless they are unwilling to change the way they conduct their research. Animal research is expensive, it is much more difficult to control than in vitro experiments, and it is subject to a plethora of regulations. Reasonable investigators will try to avoid doing animal research if they can answer the same scientific question using in vitro methods instead. However, once the investigator has made a decision to use animals and the project is approved and funded, then the experiments must be done as humanely as possible.
Among federal requirements is the provision that the IACUCs must assure the proper training of all personnel using laboratory animals. This mandate