Photo ©Rick Eh? (via Flickr)
As part of their work on research animals, RSPCA recently funded a study which shows that current EU requirements don’t allow these animals to express their natural behaviours.
The study by RSPCA specifically looked at the height of cages for laboratory rats, regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Code of Practice. Currently, the regulation allows for cages that are 20cm high, even though adult rats can rear up to 30cm. Most adult rats therefore cannot stand upright in ‘standard’ cages, and demonstrate behaviour that indicates stress and discomfort.
Although some animal research establishments in the industry recognise this as a welfare issue, a few participants in the study showed unwillingness to recognize the problem. Thanks to this study and a fresh look at some other original publications, the authors have now managed to build a strong case for increasing the height of rat cages and improve the wellbeing of rats that are used for scientific purposes.
“Of course, establishments don’t have to wait to be told to increase cage heights by the Commission – they are free to refine their caging whenever they wish, for example by housing rats in rabbit cages,” said RSPCA. “Maybe, in the Chinese Year of the Rat, more institutions will take the initiative and give their rats some head room?”