Invertebrate Welfare in Science
Andrew Crump, Bob Fischer, & Meghan Barrett
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About the Insect Welfare Research Society:
The Insect Welfare Research Society is an academic-led research society. It aims to support 1) the global insect/invertebrate welfare research community and 2) relevant stakeholders to incorporate evidence-based information on insect/invertebrate welfare into policy and practice. The society is run and staffed by entomologists, animal welfare scientists, and ethicists.
Many researchers on the Forum are interested in invertebrate welfare. This post is meant to inform these stakeholders about the IWRS guidelines for use in their work. The guidelines are intended to help researchers already committed to the use of invertebrates (e.g., having passed the ‘replace’ and ‘reduce’ steps of the 3Rs). They provide guidance on how to further refine research programs using the best available evidence for humane practice. So far, the IWRS has focused on producing guidelines for insects and decapod crustaceans.
The 2024 guidelines for insects and decapod crustaceans can be found here.
The insect guidelines (Fischer et al. 2024) are an updated version of those produced in 2023. They were collaboratively produced by animal ethicists, welfare scientists, and entomologists, and reviewed by a dozen entomologists from different sub disciplines before publication. As there are 1 million known species of insects (and 5.5 million species estimated in total), these guidelines are meant to be general and should be applied in a species-specific manner by individual researchers. The guidelines cover the central welfare-related issues associated with capturing, housing, and using insects in research, to include sampling, transportation, environmental conditions, nutrition and water, disease management, invasive methods, analgesia/anesthesia, release, euthanasia, and disposal.
Building on the insect guidelines, the decapod crustacean guidelines cover research on crabs, lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp (Crump et al. 2024). Decapods are a much smaller group than insects, with only around 15,000 species. They nonetheless encompass incredibly diverse body plans, and numerous commercially- and scientifically-important species. To reflect this diversity, the guidelines were written by eleven experts who work on various decapods and animal welfare/ethics. The recommendations broadly mirror those for insects, covering collection, husbandry, invasive procedures, and humane killing or release. Key differences in the physiology, life history, and neurobiology of decapods and insects means that there are significant differences in the promotion of their welfare, warranting two sets of guidelines.
Please share these documents with anyone researching insects or decapod crustaceans, and get in touch if you have any feedback. The guidelines will be updated annually each January.