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What Is A Culture Of Care?

You may have heard the concept of ‘culture of care’ referenced by the animal research community in relation to welfare. What does this phrase actually mean? Here we explain the origins and intention of this ethos.

Culture of care is a term used within a laboratory animal context to mean a commitment to animal welfare, care of staff, transparency, and scientific quality.  

Culture of care is about going beyond what is expected by law to ensure compassion and respect to both the animal used in research, and the staff using them. It is key to the welfare of laboratory animals, but can also aid in improving the quality of data obtained from the procedures they are involved in.  

Implementing a culture of care 

There are no set laws or regulations on culture of care, however it is mentioned throughout the UK “Guidance on the Operations of ASPA” document. It is also stated in recital 31 of the EU Directive 2010/63/EU (a section before the main text of the directive) that states animal researchers, breeders and suppliers should foster a ‘climate of care’. 

Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Bodies (AWERBs) are in a position to contribute to and develop a culture of care in research establishments. AWERBs should work in collaboration with management at the establishment to ensure that a culture of care can be suitably promoted and reviewed when necessary.  

Key areas of culture of care 

While there is no exact definition or rules to follow when promoting a culture of care, several organisations, such as the European Commission and the International Culture of Care Network, have highlighted key areas that will aid in creating a culture of care: 

Appropriate behaviour and attitude towards animal research from all key personnel 

  • Management and staff should have a good level of knowledge surrounding animal care and use, and any issues that may be caused by the use of animals in research. There should be a commitment to providing high standards of animal welfare. Individual attitudes should be positive and proactive with regards to animal welfare and humane science. 

A corporate expectation of high standard with respect to the legal, welfare 3Rs and ethical aspects of animal use 

  • This should be promoted through all levels of the establishment to allow for high standards of animal welfare. There should be established animal welfare policies in place and all animals should be provided with a high standard of veterinary and technical care by fully trained staff. 

Shared responsibility towards animal care, welfare, and use 

  • Whilst responsibility towards animal welfare should be shared to ensure the highest standards possible, it should not allow individual responsibility to be forgotten.  

A pro-active approach towards improving standards 

  • Improving standards of welfare and care should be a constant in the minds of all staff, as opposed to only reacting to problems when they arise  

Effective communication throughout the establishment  

  • Communication surrounding animal welfare, issues that have arisen, and the effect of these on science should be effective, open, and honest. Staff should have the confidence to communicate any issues they may have, and all concern should be dealt with positively. There should be no ‘blame culture’ towards individuals who raised concerns and all communication should be two-way. 

Understanding of the importance of compliance 

  • All staff, particularly those who work directly with animals, should understand what compliance procedures are in place, how they are put in place, and the importance of them. 

Those with specified roles understand their tasks and responsibilities 

  • Staff should be fully trained and have a good level of knowledge surrounding their tasks and responsibilities, and exactly what their job entails. Whilst this is particularly important for those working and caring for the animals directly, it is also true for management staff. 

Care staff and veterinarians are respected and listened to 

  • Care staff and vets are directly involved in the care and welfare of lab animals and are an important part of an establishment. They should be empowered and supported throughout the establishment they are working in.  

Recognition of high standards of work 

  • Ensuring staff feel appreciated, encouraged, and rewarded for being conscientious and showing high levels of care will promote culture of care through an establishment. If staff feel appreciated, burnout and compassion fatigue will likely be less common, benefitting not only animal welfare, but human welfare.  

Culture of care is incredibly important to ensuring high standards of care for animals, humans, and scientific outcomes. Whilst, at FRAME, we believe in phasing out animal use in science and promoting and funding human relevant methods, we also believe that any animal that is used in research should be provided with the highest standards of care and welfare possible.  

Further resources 

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