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LASA/UFAW meeting on euthanasia in laboratory animals

1 April 2013

UFAW logo   LASA logo

In recent years UFAW has organised a one-day joint CPD events with the Laboratory Animal Science Association (LASA). The 2013 LASA/UFAW meeting, held on the 24th September 2013, covered animal welfare and practical issues relating to the euthanasia of commonly used groups of animals, and provided an opportunity for animal care staff to update themselves on various aspects related to the sensitive subject of euthanasia.

Most animals used in research are euthanased, either to prevent further suffering or, because their bodies are needed for post-mortem research. The aim of euthanasia is to provide death without suffering, however there is evidence that some commonly used techniques may not be as humane as we would hope and research is being carried out on refinements and alternative techniques.

This meeting included papers that discussed current methods and refinements or alternative methods to reduce or eliminate suffering. For example, presentations were given comparing different methods of euthanising fish and rodents. In both cases the data showed that there might be problems with the most commonly used agents. For example, a comparison of the use of MS222 (a common fish anaesthetic agent) with a selection of other chemical agents as a method of humane euthanasia for zebra fish showed that zebra fish have a strong aversion to MS222. On the basis of these results it was thought that another agent, Etomidate, might be a better option for this species. Similarly CO2, often used to euthanise rodents has the potential to cause pain, although the use of gradually rising concentrations may ameliorate or avoid this problem. Difficulties also arise in determining when species truly are unconscious. In poultry, for instance, there can be technical difficulties in taking measures such as EEGs and behaviour may not always provide a useful indicator.  

It was clear that there is a need for further research in this area and that meetings such as these to disseminate best practice and draw attention to current gaps in knowledge are extremely useful.

Further information can be obtained from Dr R Hubrecht (ufaw@ufaw.org.uk).