Unequal conditions for wild animals
Wild animals are used for research and management purposes in Sweden and throughout the world. Animals are often subjected to similar procedures and risks of compromised welfare from capture, anesthesia, handling, sampling, marking, and sometimes selective removal.
The interpretation of the protection of animals used for scientific purposes in Sweden is based on the EU Directive 2010/63/EU. The purpose of animal use, irrespective if the animal is suffering or not, decides the classification as a research animal, according to Swedish legislation.
In Sweden, like in several other European countries, the legislation differs between research and management. Whereas, animal research is generally well-defined and covered in the legislation, wildlife management is not. The protection of wild animals differs depending on the procedure they are subjected to, and how they are classified. In contrast to wildlife management activities, research projects have to implement the 3Rs and must undergo ethical reviews and official animal welfare controls. It is often difficult to define the dividing line between the two categories, e.g., when marking for identification purposes. This gray area creates uncertainty and problems beyond animal welfare, e.g., in Sweden, information that has been collected during management without ethical approval should not be published. The legislation therefore needs to be harmonized.
To ensure consistent ethical and welfare assessments for wild animals at the hands of humans, and for the benefit of science and management, we suggest that both research and management procedures are assessed by one single Animal Ethics Committee with expertise in the 3Rs, animal welfare, wildlife population health and One Health. We emphasize the need for increased and improved official animal welfare control, facilitated by compatible legislation and a similar ethical authorization process for all wild animal procedures.
Link to the publication
Lindsjö J., Cvek K., Spangenberg E.M.F., Olsson J.N.G., Stéen M. 2019. The dividing line between wildlife research and management - implications for animal welfare. Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine, vol. 6: article 13.