RSPCA has held a series of events, bringing together hundreds of people from across the world, to share knowledge and ideas, and promote practical approaches to avoiding and reducing severe suffering. Participants usually include representatives from government authorities involved in the regulation of animal research, National Committees on animal experiments, and local Animal Welfare Bodies at institutions, veterinarians, scientists, animal facility managers, animal technologists, 3Rs centres and individuals involved in delivering education and training related to laboratory animal science. We are also regularly invited to contribute on the theme of severe suffering to meetings convened by other relevant organisations. Details of past events can be found in the boxes below.

Upcoming events

Our next international Focus on Severe Suffering meeting will be held in France, near Paris on 20-21 November 2024. More information to follow.

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Focus on severe suffering – Humane endpoints in regulatory toxicology – UK, 2023

On 16 November we held a UK meeting, focusing on implementing humane endpoints in acute regulatory toxicology. Sessions included:

  • Case studies on identifying sublethal indicators in acute toxicology tests
  • Improvements in training for animal technologists
  • Use of technology in animal monitoring

Summary report: Focus on Severe Suffering – Humane Endpoints in Regulatory Toxicology

focus on fish

Focus on severe suffering – Cumulative severity – Leiden, 2023

On 12-13 October we held our fifth international meeting in association with the Netherlands National Committee for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes and the University of Leiden. The two-day meeting had 159 attendees across 13 countries. Sessions included:

  • Progress of the ‘Focus on severe suffering’ initiative in the UK and Europe
  • Case studies on reducing severity 
  • Experiences and perspectives from scientists and Animal Welfare Bodies
  • A group workshop on implementing the Roadmap in practice

Summary report: Focus on Severe Suffering – Cumulative Severity.

9th AFLAS Congress – South Korea, 2023

On 13-15 September we attended the 9th Asian Federation of Laboratory Animal Science Associations Congress. We were invited to co-organise and chair a session on ‘Avoiding and reducing animal suffering – opportunities for implementing the 3Rs’. As part of this session we gave a presentation, sharing information and the impacts of our initiative aimed towards ending ‘severe’ suffering. 

12th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences – Canada, 2023

On 27-31 August we attended the 12th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences. We convened a symposium on ‘Reducing severe suffering – time for a strategic approach’.

Reducing severity – supportive care – online, 2023

On 27 February and 15 May we conducted a joint workshop on reducing severity in collaboration with the Swiss 3R Competence Centre. Sessions included:

  • Implementing the Roadmap
  • Case studies on reducing severity in practice
  • Driving forward a culture of care

Severe suffering in animal experiments and how to refine – online, 2022

We were pleased to be invited to deliver the opening presentation at this event organised by the Austrian 3R Centre.

Presentation: Working together to end severe suffering (PDF 2.14KB)

Refining severe disease models and procedures – Stockholm, 2022

On 24-25 August 2022 we held our fourth international meeting, in association with the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Summary report:  4th RSPCA international meeting (PDF 254 KB)

Presentations from the four sessions: Introduction and case studies in basic and applied research (PDF 14.9 MB), Retrospective assessment of severe procedures (PDF 10.5 MB), Case studies in regulatory testing (PDF 7.7 MB) and Looking to the future (PDF 7.7 MB)

Working together to end ‘severe’ suffering – FELASA Congress, 2022

We convened a session at the Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) international congress. Speakers described how people with different roles – including designated veterinarians, animal technicians, regulators, Animal Welfare Body (AWB) members and others – can work together to reduce, and ideally end, severe suffering.

    Slide set introducing the session and explaining the ‘Roadmap’ approach (PDF 2.9 MB)

    Looking forward and looking back – opportunities to focus on ‘severe’ suffering – Manchester, 2022

    This meeting was held in association with the University of Manchester. It included sessions on:

    • the Roadmap to reducing suffering
    • animal diseases and disorders
    • looking back – retrospective assessment

    Summary report: Looking forward and looking back (PDF 190KB)

    Presentations (PDF 6.4MB) from the event, and slide set with AWERB discussion topics (PPT 406KB)

    Focus on fish – online, 2022

    Topics covered in our second ‘virtual’ conference on practical refinements for fish used in research and testing, included:

    Summary report: Focus on Fish II (PDF 120KB)

    How the pharmaceutical industry is tackling ‘severe’ suffering in animals used in science – online, 2022

    Jointly with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) we convened a 90-minute webinar to share and discuss some of the positive and practical steps that have been taken by the pharmaceutical industry aimed at avoiding or reducing ‘severe’ suffering in animals used in research and testing. The event included three case study examples:

    and a panel discussion of some of the wider challenges involved and how these are being overcome. 

    Presentations (PDF 5.5MB) from the event

    11th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences
    – online, 2021

    We convened a ‘Focus on Severe Suffering’ session, where speakers covered topics including:

    • reducing suffering in animal models of neuropathic and inflammatory pain, sepsis and colitis
    • tailoring humane endpoints
    • avoiding mortality
    Focus on fish – online, 2021

    Topics covered in our ‘virtual’ conference on practical refinements for fish used in research and testing, included:

    • what is it like to be a zebrafish
    • attitudes towards fish welfare and the 3Rs
    • using analgesia in fishes
    • refining procedures
    • welfare assessment
    • humane endpoints

    Summary report: Focus on Fish (PDF 115KB)

    focus on fish
    3rd international meeting – Athens, 2019

    The programme was based on the ‘Avoiding mortality in animal research and testing’ report, covering three main areas:

    • reducing the numbers of animals ‘found dead’
    • reducing unpredicted mortality of animals being used in procedures
    • challenging perceived requirements for ‘death as an endpoint’ in studies and tests
    Meeting summary and action points: Athens (PDF 316KB)
    3rd International meeting, Athens 2019

    FELASA Congress – Prague, 2019

    We were delighted to accept an invitation from the organisers of this event (which attracted over 2,000 delegates from across the world) to run three scientific sessions, on:

    • Ending severe suffering – where are we now?
    • Welfare assessment – recognising severe suffering
    • Practical refinements of ‘severe’ suffering animal models and procedures
    FELASA Congress - Prague, 2019
    Challenging refinements – Stevenage, 2019

    The focus for this meeting was strategies for refining models and procedures in which this can be challenging, such as humane endpoints in regulatory tests, and analgesia provision in pain models. The programme included case studies from industry and academia, highlighting how pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm has been successfully avoided or reduced in specific models or procedures such as:

    • neuropathic pain
    • collagen-induced arthritis
    • experimental diabetes
    • evident toxicity in regulatory tests
    • environmental toxicity testing in fish

    Plus discussion on:
    how local AWERBs can assist in developing strategies to apply refinement in ‘challenging’ models improving dissemination of information on refinement

    Summary report: Challenging Refinements (PDF 356KB)
    challenging refinements

    SGV annual meeting – Zurich, 2017

    We were thrilled to accept the Swiss Laboratory Animal Science Association annual 3Rs award in recognition of our work towards ending severe suffering by implementing humane endpoints, and to give the keynote presentation at their annual conference.

    SGV annual meeting - Zurich, 2017
    2nd international meeting – Berlin, 2017

    The programme included

    • a series of case studies in which severe suffering had been successfully reduced
    • study areas where challenges and obstacles to reducing or avoiding severe suffering still remain
    • prospective severity of procedures
    • the harm-benefit assessment
    • communicating with the public about ‘harms’, and ‘severe’ suffering
    • the role of Animal Welfare Bodies, National Committees and others in sharing good practice

    Meeting summary and action points: Berlin (PDF 433KB)

    Joint media release from MDC and RSPCA

    Focus on fish
    1st international meeting – Brussels, 2016

    The programme included

    • ‘severe’ suffering within the EU
    • how pain, suffering and distress are currently identified and assessed in animals
    • recent progress in refining procedures and animal care across a range of ‘models’, tests, techniques and species
    • future opportunities for refinement
    • current potential scientific and other obstacles that will need to be overcome

    Meeting summary and action points: Brussels (PDF 108KB)



    1st International Meeting, Brussels, 2016


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