RSPCA pledges to act on severe suffering for laboratory animals

The RSPCA has pledged to reduce the number of laboratory animals who experience severe suffering in research and testing

The level of pain or distress suffered by animals in experiments is classified under UK law as mild, moderate or substantial (severe). Any level of suffering is a concern for the RSPCA, but ending severe suffering is a top priority.

Animals can experience severe suffering when they are used to study conditions that cause severe pain or distress in humans or other animals, for example: chronic arthritis, heart failure or some infectious diseases such as malaria.

Severe suffering can also be caused by some safety testing procedures, and by some vaccine trials.

RSPCA senior scientist Penny Hawkins said: “This is a vital part of the RSPCA’s ongoing work to replace animal experiments, reduce suffering and improve welfare. We want scientists to commit to ending severe suffering and to focus on changing these procedures so they cause animals as little pain and psychological suffering as possible.

“It is very frustrating that no information is currently available on the numbers of animals who experience severe suffering in UK research and testing. Thankfully, this will change when new legislation on animal use is introduced next year. It’s vital that animal suffering is accurately recognised and reported. This is not only essential for public accountability, but also to provide a more effective driver for reducing suffering and improving welfare.”

The RSPCA will promote ways of avoiding or reducing suffering and better methods for monitoring animals. We will also argue for clear guidance on assessing and classifying suffering, with details of the numbers of animals experiencing each level of suffering to be made publicly available. Members of the public can help the RSPCA reach its target by:

· Joining the RSPCA’s campaign network at or by sponsoring one of its science officers at:

· Making the government aware of your views and concerns about animal research and testing, especially the issue of severe suffering, by writing to your MP and the minister via


To find out more about the charity’s five new pledges covering lab animals, farm animals, pets and wildlife, please visit



Notes to editors:

The RSPCA’s ultimate aim is the replacement of animal experiments with humane alternatives worldwide. But until this can be achieved, we want to see the minimum numbers of animals used, with the minimum amount of suffering, and every possible effort made to improve welfare.


For further information about the RSPCA’s work to reduce suffering and improve the welfare of animals used in experiments, visit:


RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS 

Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: Website:

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