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US-centric: Animal Welfare Law Changes?

Joined
Apr 19, 2010
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478
Let's have a poll.

A lot of changes have been made to laws overseas to allow for the inclusion of some invertebrates in animal welfare laws, but not in the United States.

Currently, invertebrates are not protected for any purpose whatsoever. They are at the mercy of the individuals using them, or the IACUCs overseeing the study if it is research. Correct me if I'm totally wrong.

What do you think should be done regarding the current status of invertebrates in law, and why?
 

Stavros

GPO
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Just to clarify, IACUC regulation does not include any cephalopods at the time, therefore there is no requirement for approval of a proposed study on cephalopods.

Also to clarify, the EU directive will be in effect starting January 1st, 2013. Suzanna Luhimies represented the EU's view at Euroceph and you can see her presentation here. It's a great place to start reading about what kind of changes will take place in 2013.

Here are some points that concern me the most. The EU Directive 2010/63/EU will enforce:

- "Systematic ethical evaluation," "transparency," and "better enforcement" "resulting in more humane treatment of the animals and improved science" (Louhimies, 2011). This implies that teuthologists working in the EU are a priori (1) unethical and (2) incompetent, therefore there is a need to enforce laws to improve research and welfare. No evidence is provided whatsoever on how the European Committee came to this conclusion.

- Populations of "purpose bred animals" to Reduce the amount of wild cephalopods caught specifically for research. Some species (example, O. vulgaris) are notoriously difficult to be raised in captivity, because of the difficulty, for example, of reproducing a suitable environment for the pelagic phase of their development. This excludes some species from being studied due to inability to provide a sustainable population specifically for research. However, even when specific species allow for captive breeding, there are several factors (Forsythe, DeRusha and Hanlon, 1994) that may decrease external validity of findings on the behavior of captive bred subjects.

- Reduce "Signs of pain suffering, distress and lasting harm" during procedures. Again, the EU infers that cephalopods have pain perception without providing even a single experimental finding to prove it. It has been discussed before in the forum and others have said it better already.

For those of us who have attended this workshop at Napoli, it was clear that the reasons stated here are means to enforce uniform laws around Europe rather than evidence to support necessity for them. The EU representative at some point tried to defend the need for the Directive by saying that (1) UK has higher scientific standards than other countries, (2) certain countries members of the EU are allowed more flexibility to work with than others and (3) the rest of these countries complain about the non-uniformity of enforcement to the EU, therefore (4) everyone should model the UK standards. This is the general idea that was given at the meeting and not in the actual article. Personally, I think this is ridiculous, but then again I do not work in that area to know.

For these reasons, I say let's stay away from laws, keep the power to the unethical and incompetent teuthologists!

References:

Forsythe, J. W., DeRusha, R. H. & Hanlon, R. T. 1994 Growth, reproduction and life span of Sepia officinalis Cephalopoda: Mollusca cultured through seven consecutive generations. J. Zool. 233, 175-192.

Luhimies S. Revised EU legislation on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes Directive 2010/63/EU Euroceph, Naples April, 2011. Unpublished conference proceedings.
 

tonmo

Cthulhu
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I want to vote for "give them protection, but not as much as invertebrates", but chose "I'll articulate" because I'd like to see it START small and evolve as appropriate. Not sure whether they wouldn't end up having more protections than some vertebrates, in the end-state.

Great poll NB! Props to you again BTW for moderating a very interesting cephalopod ethics discussion at TONMOCON IV (thus inspiring this forum). THANKS! :notworth:
 
Joined
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478
Stavros;182864 said:
Just to clarify, IACUC regulation does not include any cephalopods at the time, therefore there is no requirement for approval of a proposed study on cephalopods.

Also to clarify, the EU directive will be in effect starting January 1st, 2013. Suzanna Luhimies represented the EU's view at Euroceph and you can see her presentation here. It's a great place to start reading about what kind of changes will take place in 2013.

Here are some points that concern me the most. The EU Directive 2010/63/EU will enforce:

- "Systematic ethical evaluation," "transpareny," and "better enforcement" "resulting in more humane treatment of the animals and improved science" (Louhimies, 2011). This implies that teuthologists working in the EU are a priori (1) unethical and (2) incompetent, therefore there is a need to enforce laws to improve research and welfare. No evidence is provided whatsoever on how the European Committee came to this conclusion.

Can you explain how this implies that all teuthologists are a priori unethical and incompetent? My understanding is that most users of vertebrates, which are covered by animal welfare regulations, are in fact ethical and competent, but that these laws are in place because even unintentionally there can be problems with procedures being potentially inhumane to the animal and to set standards of maintenance and housing that can be used as a benchmark to assess whether animals are being kept in good conditions. This, of course, necessitates that teuthologists have input on what constitutes inhumane treatment, but that's another issue.

- Populations of "purpose bred animals" to Reduce the amount of wild cephalopods caught specifically for research. Some species (example, O. vulgaris) are notoriously difficult to be raised in captivity, because of the difficulty, for example, of reproducing a suitable environment for the pelagic phase of their development. This excludes some species from being studied due to inability to provide a sustainable population specifically for research. However, even when specific species allow for captive breeding, there are several factors (Forsythe, DeRusha and Hanlon, 1994) that may decrease external validity of findings on the behavior of captive bred subjects.

I mentioned this in another thread, but is there no way we could perhaps phase out O. vulgaris for some purposes and bring in another octopus species which is more easily reared in captivity, such as O. bimaculoides? Bimacs are less well studied, but how much work do we have to do to establish a new 'default'? Also, certainly there is an issue with captive-bred subjects instead of wild-caught subjects, but then how do you suppose researchers get along with captive-bred mice and rats instead of wild-caught mice and rats for behavior trials (though I suppose in many cases, they're assessing their function as a general mammalian model rather than mouse and rat behavior specifically)?

- Reduce "Signs of pain suffering, distress and lasting harm" during procedures. Again, the EU infers that cephalopods have pain perception without providing even a single experimental finding to prove it. It has been discussed before in the forum and others have said it better already.

My understanding of the topic is that they secrete a number of compounds that mammals also secrete when they undergo pain perception. Of course, that does not mean that they have any more sophisticated response than nociception, but do they react to the stimulus such that they develop a long-term aversion to it or show responses such as color changing or lassitude? Have we tested pain perception on the mantle as opposed to the arms? I prefer to err on the side of caution, anyway, lest I find out some time in the future that I have unwittingly tortured an animal.
 

Thales

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Before I can get behind regulations, I want to know the problem that they are supposed to be fixing. If there is no problem, nothing needs to happen. What problem would this thought experiment law address?
 

robyn

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I am firmly in favour of regulations governing the use of cephalopods in research. In theory, such regulations would have a direct impact on my own research, since I am one of the few people actively investigating the 'pain' question in cephalopods. However, my reasoning for support is as follows.

1. Regulations place all of us - researchers, institutions, IACUCs, funding bodies and journal editors - on the same page. If we all have a common, agreed standard to which any study is held, it prevents individuals at any of these places imposing their own personal views on others regarding 'acceptability' and 'value' of our work. I'm already acquainted with the problems caused by this lack of standardisation, and I'd love for it not to be an issue in future.

2. The presence of regulations to which we all must adhere makes any incompetence or dodgy ethical standards objectively measurable, avoiding victimisation or marginalisation of any group of researchers.

3. The argument that regulations will make our work harder is a straw man, in my opinion. Everyone who works with any animal should be doing good science - not only investigating relevant questions, but applying similarly regulatory standards to themselves de facto as would be required by IACUC rules. All of us should already be asking 'how many animals?' 'are the animals relieved from unnecessary stress?' and 'can I do this better?' as a matter of course. So having to go the extra step of getting it approved should not be particularly onerous. Regulations should only improve the science we do.

4. Regulations legitimise research such that our institutions are now officially, legally a party to the research we do. Which means that should our work be exposed to public or activist scrutiny, we have the institution already on-side and tacitly supporting our work. This is extremely important for those of us who work on pain, or who use invasive or lethal methods in our research.

5. Regulating the use of some or all invertebrates under the same laws covering vertebrates makes a fallacy out of the 'replace' requirement that is one of the current requirements (the 'Three R's' - replace (with 'less sentient' or 'lower' animals) -- 'refine' and 'reduce are the others). I strongly object to the philosophy that all inverts are somehow 'less' than all vertebrates, and that it follows that their subjective experience can be discarded in our considerations of ethics. Changing the law to include some or all inverts invalidates this tenet. I'd be very, very happy to see that change.
 

Stavros

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neurobadger: The short and dirty answer to your questions (I will expand my answers later) is that the problem here is not about having guidelines to take care of the animals and such, which is a welcomed notion.

My biggest problem is government regulating anything in general and science more importantly, and second, it's all based on unfounded inferences. They claim we need to have this law because there is a possibility we might not be ethically evaluating reliably enough current procedures, that there might not be transparency and that we might not be having the best humane treatment and scientific standards as is.

How did they come to this conclusion? By what measure do they infer workers are not ethical enough and that they have lower scientific standards? What exactly is the problem they are trying to solve in the first place? That's why I see this that they claim teuthologists are unethical and incompetent workers.

I will come back to this later.
 
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Stavros;182877 said:
My biggest problem is government regulating anything in general and science more importantly, and second, it's all based on unfounded inferences. They claim we need to have this law because there is a possibility we might not be ethically evaluating reliably enough current procedures, that there might not be transparency and that we might not be having the best humane treatment and scientific standards as is.

How did they come to this conclusion? By what measure do they infer workers are not ethical enough and that they have lower scientific standards? What exactly is the problem they are trying to solve in the first place? That's why I see this that they claim teuthologists are unethical and incompetent workers.

The question of regulation of anything is enough of a giant barrel of worms (suffice to say I do not agree with you regarding government regulation of things) and this is not an appropriate forum in which to address it, but I can say with some certainty that current animal welfare regulations - at the NIH, at least, where I have a family member - are quite emphatically not based on unfounded inferences (I mention in particular the book Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals and Guidelines for the Care and Use of Mammals in Neuroscience and Behavioral Research). I am somewhat inclined to believe, though I may be too idealistic here, that if NIH, the USDA, and other governmental bodies in the United States brought their resources to bear on this and voiced interest in adding some invertebrates to protected species, things would get done with a lot more care than how they were done in the EU. Our politicians may be a lost cause, but do not dismiss their underlings.

I agree entirely with Robyn that well-designed regulations are not only necessary but should, if you are actually doing good science, not change a darned thing about a person's research. They weed out the chaff from the wheat.

And just because most workers are ethical does not mean all of them are. Last I heard the bodies that deal with noncompliance toward these regulations are still pretty busy. And what's wrong with ethical evaluation and transparency?
 

Stavros

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neurobadger;182866 said:
And just because most workers are ethical does not mean all of them are.
Just because there is a law, these few you mention here won't become more ethical. Science will never be safe from bias and cheating just because there are laws, peer review bodies and so on. These will help reduce it yes, but they are far from reducing it to the point that we want to believe. At the end of the day, the responsibility lies with you in the first place, not because there is a law that enforces it.

neurobadger;182866 said:
Last I heard the bodies that deal with noncompliance toward these regulations are still pretty busy. And what's wrong with ethical evaluation and transparency?

I think you misunderstand me on this. Read the sentence again; the claim made is that ethical evaluations and transparency are needed, implying that they are missing in the first place, and enforcing them will allow for more humane treatment and improved science, implying that there have been lower standards again in the first place.

As far as I'm concerned, actions but not intentions make a worker competent. If you unintentionally use procedures that harm an animal then you need more training. No regulation will help you with sloppiness even if your procedures are approved by a set body. And before we can argue that a regulation will provide more training, we have to be realistic here and say that you won't go ahead in this career if you don't have solid training anyway.

As far as the guidelines go on mammal care, we can't just take them and apply them to inverts. Pain recognition in mammals is one way to go towards finding evidence in inverts lets say, but you can't regulate research due to cephalopods feeling pain, before anyone gets to study it. In that sense, the EU has jumped the gun here.

I mentioned this in another thread, but is there no way we could perhaps phase out O. vulgaris for some purposes and bring in another octopus species which is more easily reared in captivity, such as O. bimaculoides? Bimacs are less well studied, but how much work do we have to do to establish a new 'default'? Also, certainly there is an issue with captive-bred subjects instead of wild-caught subjects, but then how do you suppose researchers get along with captive-bred mice and rats instead of wild-caught mice and rats for behavior trials (though I suppose in many cases, they're assessing their function as a general mammalian model rather than mouse and rat behavior specifically)?

Some of us have been working with bimacs already, but of course the cost of having available only one or a few versus all species is reducing comparative studies. One example to mention here is sucker musculature which, even today, has been described in very few species only. If we only use the specific anatomy of O. bimaculoides as "default" lets say, then you end up with a very narrow idea of how nature works. I've seen some recent work on O. vulgaris' musculature and there is enough difference between the two species to actually be able to distinguish one from the other just by looking at their sucker morphology. This fact opens up a new direction of investigations on its own.

Also, it will be hard for EU scientists to work only on bimacs, as hard it is to work in the US with Mediterranean specimens of vulgaris. By far, the biggest problem, however, will be with finding a way to work with only captive bred nautilus and squid.

As far as generalizing behavior from captive to wild population, there is a lot to be said but it is worth another thread on its own.

These are my concerns as far as using the EU Directive as a potential model. The points that I mentioned, especially working only with captive bred subjects, should not be taken lightly in favor of the benefits that such regulations provide. Overall, we can have benefits without the said costs. There are bodies such as the Cephalopod International Advisory Council (CIAC) that should have a leading role to decisions like this, rather than having government coming in and deciding for scientists, without the necessary expertise on inverts and without providing any evidence for their claims.
 

ceph

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3. The argument that regulations will make our work harder is a straw man, in my opinion. Everyone who works with any animal should be doing good science - not only investigating relevant questions, but applying similarly regulatory standards to themselves de facto as would be required by IACUC rules. All of us should already be asking 'how many animals?' 'are the animals relieved from unnecessary stress?' and 'can I do this better?' as a matter of course. So having to go the extra step of getting it approved should not be particularly onerous. Regulations should only improve the science we do.

I'm with you in spirit. Additionally, I think a discussion on ethics for all animals is timely. On top of that, I politically believe that the US needs more regulators to protect consumers from bankers and other to big to fail companies with deep pockets. So I'm generally for regulation and oversight.

However, I have had a number of experiences where what actually happened and what should have happened were very different. In several of these cases animals in my care died needlessly; I have a problem with that.

Example 1: Importing cuttlefish into Canada was no problem. They have the word "fish" in their name and DFO import permits were quickly approved - seriously. This is for Sepia officinalis which might just live if it somehow escaped. . . Importing tropical octopuses into Canada was a very different beast - while also cephalopods, they do not have the word "fish" in their common name so the permit request went to go a different branch . . . which had different rules resulted in having to keep them in full Quarantine under lock and key, incinerate and report each and every one that died, kill(!!!) all animals at the end of the experiments, use an iodine bath that stained my hands and a foot bath and fill out regular paper work. This is for a tropical species of cephalopod - it and its parasites would have a very hard time in cold Canadian waters. I have and had ethical concerns with this oversight, even more so given the inconsistency between the two cephalopod species and the requirement to kill at the end.

Also, these rules are just for scientists - members of the public could buy these animals at a local pet store and legally release them into the wild. I certainly am not advocating that but making the point that as a scientist I had to jump through a lot of extra hoops.

Example 2: I once was detained for over an hour because I failed to declare an Ammonite fossil as plant or animal material as I reentered the US from Europe. I declared it, just not as a plant or animal. . . Apparently the TSA agent confused a rock for some sort of bio-hazard. . .

Example 3: Our lab at Dal was breeding scallops and putting their larvae on a space shuttle mission. One year we had 2 different animal care groups come inspect us. Like most inspections of this nature, we had advanced warning and we asked around to find out what the inspectors were looking for. The first group was from industry - we cleaned up the lab a bit but otherwise didn't do much for them. They were very impressed with our facility, our bio-filters and our healthy brood stock that produced offspring like clockwork. The second group was academic and included medical doctors and mammal people; to them "sterile" was the gold standard. So we removed than animals and bleached the tanks, pipes and everything and gave them exactly what they wanted. They were also very impressed and commented that most marine labs were much dirtier with ugly scum in their tanks while ours were so nice and clean. After that cleaning and inspection, it took 6 months before the scallops would breed again. . . which is a problem if you are trying to hit the space shuttles schedule.

Example 4: In Bermuda I had a tank of bioluminescent worms. This tanks was clearly labeled but if you looked in it, it looked more or less empty as the worms were small and lived in tubes made out of detritus. Prior to an animal care inspection, someone "cleaned" my tank and killed my animals. Death by animal care oversight strikes again!

I am not arguing against regulation - but I am suggesting that we be very careful with it. Clearly, it can be beneficial; I can point out examples of that as well. Point 3 argues that making more work is a straw man argument. I strongly disagree. In my experience oversight, especially by those w/o expertise with the animals which is typical for cephalopods, can not only make more work, it can and does occasionally kill animals needlessly - the exact opposite of the intended effect. This is especially true when non-specialists are making assessments or decisions well outside of their field or are applying standards from one field (cats, rats, marine mammals) to another where they are often completely inappropriate.

James
 

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