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Reducing the number of laboratory animals used and refining experimental procedures to enhance animal welfare are fundamental questions to be considered in connection with animal experimentation. Here, we explored the use of cardinal ethical weights for clinical signs and symptoms in rodents by conducting trade-off interviews with members of Swedish Animal Ethics Committees in order to derive such weights for nine typical clinical signs of toxicity. The participants interviewed represent researchers, politically nominated political nominees and representatives of animal welfare organizations. We observed no statistically significant differences between these groups with respect to the magnitude of the ethical weights assigned, though the political nominees tended to assign lower weights. Overall, hunched posture was considered the most severe clinical sign and body weight loss the least severe. The ethical weights assigned varied considerably between individuals, from zero to infinite value, indicating discrepancies in prioritization of reduction and refinement. Cardinal ethical weights may be utilized to include both animal welfare refinement and reduction of animal use in designing as well as in retrospective assessment of animal experiments. Such weights may also be used to estimate ethical costs of animal experiments.
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Articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is appropriately cited (CC-BY). Copyright on any article in ALTEX is retained by the author(s).