Friday, 28 February 2014

Fish have feelings too

Our obligation to keep the suffering of laboratory animals to a minimum — both in life and in death — does not apply only to mammals.
25 February 2014

Former US President George W. Bush once cryptically remarked that he was sure that “the human being and fish can coexist peacefully”. Fish might beg to differ. Humans continue to deplete ocean stocks for food and to stalk rivers in the name of sport. And then there are the millions of fish that die in scientific laboratories every year.

Much of the debate about the use of animals in research focuses on what happens while they are alive: the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on them, how this can be kept to a minimum, and the balance between this discomfort and the greater benefit it can and does bring to both people and animals. Less talked about — perhaps fortuitously, given the way emotion can drive such debates — is the fact that most of the animals lose more than their freedom and their comfort. The majority of laboratory animals are killed at the end of the work. Killing animals is an unpleasant thing to have to do, but unfortunately in some areas of science it is unavoidable. So it is important that the regulations scientists follow for animal euthanasia reflect the most humane options available. New research suggests that this might not always be the case for zebrafish.

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