Stevens, C., Hawkins, P., Smulders, T. V. et al. 2021. Report of the 2020 RSPCA/UFAW rodent and rabbit welfare meeting. Animal Technology and Welfare 20(1), 21-33.
The RSPCA/UFAW rodent and rabbit welfare group has held a one-day meeting every autumn for the last 27 years, so that its members can discuss current welfare research, exchange views on welfare issues and share experiences of the implementation of the 3Rs of replacement, reduction and refinement with respect to rodent use. A key aim of the Group is to encourage people to think about the whole lifetime experience of laboratory rodents, ensuring that every potential negative impact on their wellbeing is reviewed and minimised. This year’s meeting was held online for the first time and was attended by over 400 delegates from almost 40 countries. The theme was ‘cumulative experiences’ with sessions on ‘the science of cumulative severity’ and ‘practical refinements to reduce severity and promote wellbeing’. The meeting opened with an introductory talk which explained why cumulative experiences are important and how both positive and negative experiences can accumulate over an animal’s lifetime to have long-term impacts on welfare. Further talks discussed different ways to recognise and assess cumulative severity, the cumulative impacts of small refinements and the concept of a ‘good life’ and what this means for laboratory rodents. This was followed by an update from the Home Office Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU), which focussed on how cumulative experiences influence the severity experienced by animals in science. The day closed with an interactive discussion session on ways to identify cumulative suffering in rodents cage side. This report summarises the meeting and ends with a list of action points for readers to consider raising at their own establishments.