“When in doubt, support the animals”

A veterinary surgeon’s advice about the challenges of working in animal laboratories. 

Veterinarians, who are often drawn to their profession by a desire to care for animals, can be faced with tough challenges when working in animal-testing laboratories. They can encounter cases of severe pain and suffering, but are unable to apply analgesia because of the requirements of an  experiment.  

Katherine van Ekert Onay, President and co-founder of Sentient – The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics, describes such a situation in an article in the latest edition of PiLAS. (Perspectives in Laboratory Animal Science.)

She says: “One of my most challenging career experiences occurred during my first time at an animal-testing institute. Mice, crippled with advanced-stage arthritis, were intentionally deprived of analgesia, due to concerns about the impact of analgesics on the experimental results obtained.”

She also cites incidences of complex neurosurgical procedures being carried out by "nominally trained researchers", in non-sterile conditions, leading to potentially painful inflammation around the operation site.

She points out that, in any other circumstances, such treatment would be deemed cruel.  “Can we really call ourselves animal carers, when we allow mechanisation and complacency to perpetuate what is, in any rational context, cruelty?”

Her advice to other vets is taken from the German Veterinary Association for the Protection of Animals’ Code of Conduct  “In dubio pro animale”, which translates approximately to “When in doubt, support the animals”.  

It was this ethos that drove the formation of Sentient, whose mission is to offer a scientific approach within an ethical framework, to improve animal protection.  Sentient also promotes an ongoing commitment to the highest standard of care for animals used in research.

“Although an essential component, science alone is not sufficient, given that we work with beings who have their own inherent value and requirements. It is not only our moral responsibility, as animal professionals, to ensure that we see them beyond the utility they serve, but we also owe it to ourselves to honour the empathy that drove us to work with animals in the first place.”

PiLAS is published by FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments). The article can be found in full at  http://pilas.org.uk/our-guiding-principles/

16 July 2014


Anne Jeffery  (Communications organiser) 

96-98 North Sherwood Street

0115 958 4740 

FRAME is the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments.

It promotes the replacement of laboratory animals with non-animal methods, through better science. 

Its ultimate aim is the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of scientific or medical procedures. 


About Us

FRAME is an independent charity dedicated to the development of new and valid methods that will replace the need for laboratory animals in medical and scientific research, education, and testing. FRAME believes in the development of better scientific methods for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. Its ultimate aim is the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedures, but FRAME accepts that a total end to their use cannot be achieved immediately. However, the current scale of animal experimentation is unacceptable.

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Animals should be treated with respect, befitting their status as sentient beings, rather than as mere tools for data collection.
Katherine van Ekert Onay