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Ethical principles

The following general principles should be taken into account when planning and carrying out an experiment with living organisms:

The rule of the 3 Rs should be applied, meaning, Reduction of the number of animals used, Replacement of animals with in vitro experimentation and Refinement of experimental interventions in order to minimize the suffering of the animals. More specifically:

  • All the necessary measures should be taken to ensure the welfare of animals and to minimize the pain and the stress that can occur during experimental interventions.
  • When the animals will undergo procedures causing suffering and pain, their number must be limited to the lowest possible that will enable statistically significant results.
  • Replacement or complete avoidance of the use of laboratory animals:

             a) with the help of statistical meta-analysis of existing experimental data and

             b) with in vitro experiments.

The principles of good management practices in livestock production and good veterinary care should be followed, in the design and execution of experiments.

Especially the following should be ensured:

  • The chosen species is the most suitable for experimentation and intended investigation.
  • The selected animal species ethology has been taken into account in order to minimize additional stressors.
  • The animals are procurred from trusted breeders and all the necessary measures have been taken to ensure safe transfer of the animals to the experimental facilities.
  • Housing and management of animals is carried out in accordance with the national legislation and the principles of bioethics.
  •  A number of parameters have been taken into consideration such as:the density of animals (number / surface or volume), the cleaning frequency and the quality of breeding  environment.
  • All the procedures that might cause distress or pain to the animals have been predicted and appropriate measures have been taken to minimize pain.
  • Personnel involved has the required knowledge and skills for the handling of the animals.
  • There is adequate supervision of students from  the responsible academic staff.
  • Care is taken to maintain the good health of the animals.
  • Experimentation should include predefined end of life points where appropriate, in a way that minimizes suffering and pain (euthanasia).

Completion of the experiment – disposal of animals

Depending on the nature of the experiment, the animals can be either:

(a) reused in another experiment,

(b) returned to the herd or the farm of origin,

(c) killed and their carcasses offerred for consumption,

(d) killed and then their carcasses disposed (e.g. incineration).

 

Exceptional circumstances:

For the following types of experimentation to be acceptable the aim and necessity of the experiment should be described and adequately justified, including the expected level of distress and pain to be caused to the animals and the expected benefits for the animals of humans.

  • As a principle, the good health of animals should be maintained. However, if the experimentation requires the deliberate infection of the animals, the length of the infectious periods should be minimised with the pre-definition of points of euthanasia. In addition, experimentation should be carried out in appropriate containement installations that prevent the spreading of the pathogens to the environment and ensure that the personnel involved is protected.
  • The intentional malnutrition of animals for the purpose of the experiment, should be done for the minimum possible length of time. Additionally, the feeding regiment should be designed so that the hunger of the animal is minimized.
  • The duration of any kind of deprivation (e.g. food, water, social contact) should be minimized and justified.
  • If  interventional sampling techniques (e.g. repeated blood sampling, tissue sampling) are required, they should be performed using appropriate analgesia and/or anaesthesia. Surgery (if required) should be carried out only under the supervision of a veterinarian and by properly trained personnel. In addition, post-operative monitoring of the animals and the use of appropriate medication where needed (e.g. antibiotics and anti-inflammatory) should be ensured.