ASAB Ethics Workshop

Date: 21/06/2022




Title: Ethics of Animal Behaviour and Welfare Research for the 21st Century and Beyond

June 21 and 22, 2022

Venue: Online using ASAB platform


Rationale of proposed workshop:

The use of non-human animals for research often raises ethical concerns, where justification of their use and optimising their welfare is essential for public trust. Animal welfare is critical to this debate, especially with the shift in focus to promoting positive affective states. The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) has played a very influential role by setting standards for the treatment of animals (e.g. 3Rs, experimental design, husbandry, in lab-based, farm, clinical and field research)*. Crucially, ASAB guidance specifies the requirement for ethical review and standards for any manuscript submitted to Animal Behaviour. However, the omission of ethical review and animal welfare protective strategies in published papers is widespread, and shows no sign of improving. This is apparent in studies in which animals are the subjects, but also for related work involving human participants. These omissions pose serious risks: (1) suboptimal animal welfare, (2) wider impacts on animal welfare for research animals, (3) worsening of the reproducibility crisis, and (4) reputational damage to animal sciences, amplified by the shift to open-access publication. Omission can be due to poor reporting and/or lack of ethical approval. Ethical review committees for animal and human research are usually separate, and, for some researchers may be difficult to access. Combined, this can lead to a lack of knowledge among researchers from different specialisms, resulting in inadequate ethical oversight. Application of acceptable ethical research standards is further complicated by the variation in guidance and legal requirements at international levels.

Our aim for this meeting is to educate and raise awareness of the need for minimum ethical standards for animal research, research on animal-human interactions, and reporting of these considerations in published papers, ultimately improving animal behaviour, welfare and veterinary clinical research standards across the world. We aim to showcase these topics through oral presentations and posters featuring examples from domestic and exotic companion animals, production animals, as well as laboratory and wild animals. We will include current “gold standard” examples in both reporting of ethical and animal welfare considerations, and procedural examples of research using animal and human data, as well as discussion of scenarios where problems may arise. We aim to reach animal behaviour and welfare scientists in particular (at all career stages), but given the relevance of the topic across animal sciences, we hope that other researchers will also attend (e.g. from veterinary sciences and biomedical sciences).

We are a diverse group of seven organisers (from Early Career Researchers to more senior academics) based across the world, from Chile, Denmark, Hong Kong, Thailand, and UK. Because of our varied time zones, and our strong desire to attract a large international audience, we will run the meeting online during UK daytime, using the ASAB virtual platform. The event will be held over two days, with four main sessions (morning and afternoon), and four plenary speakers. We strongly believe that this meeting has the potential to have a lasting and important legacy in terms of improving research ethics and animal welfare standards across the world.


What is the proposed format and content of the workshop?

Talks, plenary sessions, posters

How many attendees are envisaged?

As many as possible, using the ASAB online platform. We hope that the meeting can be offered free to ASAB members and participants from Low- and Middle-Income countries, as well as students located anywhere. A minimal fee for non-members from Higher-income countries could be applied if necessary.


Organisers (alphabetical order, after the first name):

Dr. Alan McElligott, City University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Elodie Briefer, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dr. Kate Flay, City University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Xin Huo, Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, Thailand.

Dr. Hannah Mumby, University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Matthew Parker, University of Portsmouth, UK.

Dr. Tamara Tadich, Universidad Austral de Chile.


*Guidelines for the treatment of animals in behavioural research and teaching. 2021. Animal Behaviour 171, Pages I-XI.

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