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Understanding The Needs Of Lab And Farm Animals Can Affect Research

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Candace Croney, director of the new Purdue University Center for Animal Welfare, speaks on the importance of health in lab and farm animals. Key points of the interview:

How Croney's work affects the health of animals and humans

"There's a movement now to move these animals from out of stall systems to group housing systems. One of the things that concerns people is how to manage those animals in those new systems so that they're not injuring each other, they aren't getting injured themselves, they are getting enough to eat, they're getting individual care...So that the farmer at the end of the day actually has healthy animals that can produce healthy food and get a little bit of profit out of it."

How does animal welfare science benefit research?

"There are people who will suggest that a lot of the research coming out of many of these fields isn't valid because it doesn't work as well with the human population. One of the questions becomes: To what extent is the experience the animals are having undermining the validity of the research? If they're too cold, they're going to metabolize any drugs for testing on them much differently than if they are comfortable... So what we are doing is getting better animal models."

How do you understand what a rodent needs?

"One of the things we look at is what is the rodent's behavior telling us? What is the natural history of the species we are looking at?"

"Of the bedding material we provided, what did they prefer? What allows them to build the best possible nest and to keep themselves as warm as ideal for them? These are ways we can ask these animals very simple questions. And often times when we look at their physiological measures, their blood measures, indicators of stress (and stress hormones many people are familiar with is cortisol) we find those measures match up with their behavioral measures."

Do you think the changes in that the way animal research is conducted and the way animals are housed will impact medical studies down the road, and will have a direct impact on medicine?

"I think absolutely so. I think unless we do more of this work, you will continue to see challenges relative to using animals for this type of research. 1. Because of concerns about how the animals themselves are treated. 2. Because of the questions of the validity of research. Doing this kind of work is a critical component of ensuring that if the public feels it's important we test these products even on animals that we are doing that in the most precise, and more importantly, the most humane way possible."