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GA mouse welfare assessment

The use of genetically altered (GA) animals in research has increased tenfold in the last decade, and continuation of this trend could reverse the decline in the overall number of animals used in scientific procedures.


GA animals are currently mainly used in studies of gene function and disease. Mice account for the majority (98%) of procedures involving GA animals, with the remainder involving rats (1%) and pigs, sheep, domestic fowl, amphibians and fish (1% combined).

Genetic alteration is not necessarily harmful; however, there is the potential for animal welfare concerns. For instance, knocking out genes to study their function, or using GA animals to model human disease may have potential health and welfare implications. For scientific, ethical and legal reasons, knowledge of the full impact on the animals is important in order to ensure that appropriate action is taken to minimise any suffering.

In response to a 2001 Animal Procedures Committee (APC) report on biotechnology the Centre for Best Practice for Animals in Research (CBPAR), on behalf of the main UK funding bodies, convened a multi-disciplinary working group to progress the APC's recommendations on the assessment of the welfare of GM mice. CBPAR has since been subsumed into the NC3Rs and the full report of the Working Group is now available. 

The issues concerning the welfare of GM mice, identified by the APC, also apply to mice generated by mutagenesis (spontaneous and induced mutants) and therefore the working group has considered these animals collectively, adopting the term 'genetically altered'.

In summary, the working group has recommended the adoption of a scheme for the systematic monitoring and recording of the welfare of GA mice and the establishment of a passport system for all GA mice that are moved between establishments nationally and internationally.

Mouse on gloved hand

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