Burn, C. C., Mazlan, N. H. B., Chancellor, N. et al. 2021. The pen is milder than the blade: Identification marking mice using ink on the tail appears more humane than ear-punching even with local anaesthetic. Animals 11(6), 1664.
Identification marking mice commonly involves ear-punching with or without anaesthetic, or tail-marking with ink. To identify which is most humane, we marked weanling male BALB/c mice using ear-punching (EP), ear-punching with anaesthetic EMLATM cream (EP+A), or permanent marker pen (MP). We compared marked mice, unmarked cagemates, and control mice (n = 12–13/group) for 5 weeks, reapplying MP weekly. Treatment-blind observations following marking showed that EP and EP+A mice were allogroomed (p < 0.001) and sniffed (p < 0.001) by their cagemates more than MP and control mice were. EP+A mice groomed themselves (p < 0.001) and their ears (p < 0.001) ~5 times more than most other mice; their cagemates also increased self-grooming (p < 0.001). Unmarked MP cagemates (p = 0.001), and possibly EP+A mice (p = 0.034; a nonsignificant trend), grimaced the most. The following day, half the EP+A mice showed hyponeophagia versus no MP and control mice (p = 0.001). Over the 5 weeks, EP mice approached the handler significantly less than unmarked cagemates did (p < 0.001). Across weeks, defecation during marking of MP mice decreased (p < 0.001). Treatment showed no effects on immediate responses during marking, aggression, bodyweight, plus-maze behaviour or corticosterone. MP mice showed no differences from controls, whilst EP and EP+A mice showed altered behaviour, so ink-marking may be the more humane identification method.