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Past Hume Research Fellowships

Dr Chris Sherwin, the UFAW (Hume) Research Fellow at Bristol University, studied the preferences of laboratory mice for various aspects of housing and husbandry including motivation for burrowing, social contact, various enrichment resources and cage colour.

Enriched and unenriched mouse cages of different sizes with choice of water bottles, one containing an anxiolytic

Dr Sherwin showed that mice housed in standard cages choose to drink more of an anxiety-reducing drug than do mice in enriched cages — a welfare-assessment approach that may prove valuable in investigating many different housing conditions.

These results suggested that mice housed in standard cages may be chronically anxious. Appropriate enrichment of experimental animals may have benefits not only for the welfare of the animals, but also for the validity of the experiments themselves.

Sherwin CM, and Olsson IAS 2004 Housing conditions affect self-administration of anxiolytic by laboratory mice. Animal Welfare 13: 33-38.

Sherwin CM 2004 The influences of standard laboratory cages on rodents and the validity of research data. Animal Welfare 13: 9-15.

Dr Chris Sherwin also conducted consumer demand studies to assess the motivation of group- housed mice for various aspects of the cage environment that might be included in an enriched laboratory cage design, including access to companions, availability of different kinds of bedding material, and provision of burrowing material. Results indicated that social context can have a significant effect on the animal’s motivation for resources, and that this effect is resource-dependent.

When Dr Sherwin investigated preferences for cage colour, he found that, out of the colours tested, white was the most preferred and red the least. Cage colour also had a significant effect on body weight and food consumption. He also found that laboratory mice will construct a burrow in peat soon after being given access to this substrate, confirming that burrowing has been retained in their behavioural. Mice given an intact burrow continued digging, indicating a high motivation to perform this activity.

The second UFAW Hume Research Fellowship was awarded in 2005 to Dr. Johanneke van der Harst, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University who studied “Anticipatory behaviour as a multi-functional tool for the field of animal welfare research”.

With the widespread acceptance that animals’ subjective emotions and feelings are crucial factors affecting their well-being and welfare, addressing the difficulty of assessing and measuring those states as determinants of a welfare assessment has become increasingly important. Dr. van der Harst’s work was aimed at enabling further development of a new and practical field technique that can be used to assess animals at the farm or group level, rather than in a research environment, and which can be shown to reflect their internal mental state.

Based on the observation that animals display anticipatory behaviours when aware of impending reward, the study investigated these behaviours and their relationship to environmental conditions as reliable and practical indicators of positive or negative mental states and their intensity.

van der Harst JE, and Spruijt BM 2007 Tools to measure and improve animal welfare: reward-related behaviour. Animal Welfare 16: S67-S73.