Welfare assessment

C0025699Animal welfare is about preventing suffering and ensuring a good quality of life the animals under the care of humans. This requires attention to both the physical and psychological needs of animals1, such as providing a high standard of housing and veterinary care, opportunities to express species-specific behaviours and to engage in social interactions, and the removal of any causes of unnecessary pain, fear or distress.2

Monitoring the welfare of laboratory macaques is essential for identifying individuals at risk of poor welfare, and for evaluating the impact of research or husbandry practices, plus any management interventions aimed at refining these. Establishing an effective welfare assessment scheme will benefit both animals and staff (see below).

Understanding baseline or normal good health and psychological well-being, for both the species and individual animals, is essential for recognising when welfare has been compromised.3 A comprehensive welfare assessment scheme will include multiple measurements4 including behavioural indicators, physiological indicators and health indicators such as clinical signs. Triangulation using a combination of measures collected at the same point in time can give the best assessment of welfare state.5



Benefits of an effective welfare assessment scheme

  • Save time: Early detection of compromised welfare, or incipient problems, allows prevention rather than cure of pathologies. Plus animals with good welfare are more easily trained to cooperate with veterinary, husbandry and scientific procedures.
  • Save money: Animals with good welfare require less veterinary care.
  • Improve quality of science: Animals with good welfare perform better on cognitive/behavioural tasks, work more efficiently and produce less noisy data; in some cases, this can lead to reduction of the number of animals needed.
  • Improve safety: Healthy animals are less aggressive towards humans and conspecifics.
  • Benefit staff and animals: The above benefits will lead to reduced stress and a better working environment for both animals and staff.


Integrated welfare assessment framework for macaques on toxicology studies

Tasker (2012) has developed a framework for assessing the welfare of juvenile cynomolgus macaques used in regulatory toxicology studies, and validated this for the assessment of improvements to housing and staff-animal interactions. Body condition and alopecia (see the tabs under Health indicators) and facial expressions and vocalisations (see the tabs under Behaviour) were found to be sensitive indicators of changes in welfare state associated with handling and restraint, and with alterations to the social group for study purposes. Fluctuations in body weight and changes in activity budget (e.g. overall pattern of activity, time spent in social contact), vigilance behaviour and position in the home pen proved to be useful indicators of whether the macaques were becoming accustomed to the laboratory environment during the pre-study acclimatisation period.

Tasker Buchanan-Smith Cynomolgus Welfare Assessment Framework Venn Diagram 2015



Indicators of welfare in macaques

Examples of indicators used to assess the welfare of macaques. For a summary of criteria for valid and robust animal-based measures of welfare, see Table 1 in EFSA 2012.

Behavioural Physiological Physical health
Behavioural repertoire Heart rate Coat and skin condition
Activity budget Blood pressure Body condition
Presence of abnormal behaviour Haematology Body weight fluctuation
Facial expressions Biochemistry Growth rate
Vocalisations Body temperature Susceptibility to disease
Challenge tests Cortisol Wound healing
Subjective ratings Immunological functions Reproductive output and infant care
Anticipatory behaviour Telomere length Longevity
Cognitive bias Allostatic load Post mortem indicators



  1. Stamp Dawkins 1998, 2006; Mendl et al. 2010 

  2. Brambell 1965 

  3. Jennings & Prescott 2009 

  4. Jennings & Prescott 2009; Tasker 2012 

  5. Webster 2008 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons