The pervasive suffering of lifetime captivity
While most people readily acknowledge that experimental routines can be a source of great suffering for animals in labs, far less is understood about the suffering they endure due to the confinement in the lab. Indeed, the distress created by their overall laboratory environment contributes to the three greatest areas of pervasive suffering for laboratory animals: fear, loneliness and boredom.
Fear results from the constant presence of the unknown, from the possibility of being subjected to painful procedures, from sudden or frequent relocation to unfamiliar environments, from removal, without prior knowledge, of family members or cage mates or other familiar members of their own species, and especially from the pervasive inability to escape their surroundings due to confinement, an essential coping mechanism for all species.
Loneliness results from the isolation inherent in the social deprivation of a life in cages. Animals are stripped of their normal social and family interactions, and if they have any interactions at all, these are usually tainted due to premature separations or abnormal aggressions resulting from unnatural crowding.
Due to infection control regulations all encounters that animals have with the people who care for them are with lab personnel wearing masks, gowns and gloves. These contacts are completely lacking any tactile connection; animals never feel the comfort of a human touch.
The stripped-down environment that comprises their world leads to an interminable boredom that erodes the spirit of laboratory-confined animals. Animals who naturally would climb, jump, fly, swim, burrow, tunnel, navigate, forage, court, parent and interact with an environment rich with stimuli are instead thwarted endlessly with bare, stainless steel walls, ceiling and floors. There is ample evidence to document that this sensory deprived environment routinely causes animals to go insane and exhibit psychotic behaviors such as extreme withdrawal or self-mutilation.
These factors make a compelling case that humane use of animals in research is essentially impossible, and should impel society to actively seek ways to conduct research without animals, including utilizing the current available technologies, and changing laws that currently perpetuate animal experiments.
Nothing conveys the oppression of life in the laboratory like seeing the reactions of animals who are released for the first time into a life of freedom. Click here to watch videos of animals responding to their first taste of freedom.