Behaviour, welfare and health

Minimising pain in farm animals: the 3S approach – ‘Suppress, Substitute, Soothe’

R. Guatteoa1a2a3 c1, O. Levionnoisa4a5, D. Fourniera6a7, D. Guémenéa8, K. Latouchea9, C. Leterriera10, P. Mormèdea11, A. Pruniera12, J. Servièrea13, C. Terlouwa14 and P. Le Neindrea15

a1 INRA, UMR 1300, Bio-Agression, Epidémiologie et Analyse de Risque, F-44307 Nantes, France

a2 Oniris, UMR 1300, Bio-Agression, Epidémiologie et Analyse de Risque, F-44307 Nantes, France

a3 Université Nantes Angers Le Mans, France

a4 Anaesthesia Section, Department for Clinical Veterinary Medicine, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Switzerland

a5 Allevia AG, The Bone CRO, Bern, Switze r land

a6 INRA, UAR378, Service Déconcentré d'Appui à la Recherche, Equipe Régionale d'Information Scientifique et Technique, F-34060 Montpellier, France

a7 INRA, Délégation et Partenariat aux Entreprises, F-75337 Paris Cedex 07, France

a8 INRA, UR83 Recherches Avicoles, F-37380 Nouzilly, France

a9 INRA, UR 1134 Laboratoire Etudes et Recherches Economiques, F-44300 Nantes, France

a10 INRA, UMR 85 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, F-37380 Nouzilly, France

a11 INRA, UMR 444 Génétique Cellulaire, F-31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France

a12 INRA, UMR 1079 Systèmes d'Elevage Nutrition Animale et Humaine, F-35590 Saint-Gilles, France

a13 INRA, UMR 0791 Modélisation Systémique Appliquée aux Ruminants, F-75231 Paris, France

a14 INRA, UR 1213, Herbivores, F-63122 St-Genès Champanelle, France

a15 INRA, CODIR, F-75338 Paris, France


Recently, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research appointed an expert committee to review the issue of pain in food-producing farm animals. To minimise pain, the authors developed a ‘3S’ approach accounting for ‘Suppress, Substitute and Soothe’ by analogy with the ‘3Rs’ approach of ‘Reduction, Refinement and Replacement’ applied in the context of animal experimentation. Thus, when addressing the matter of pain, the following steps and solutions could be assessed, in the light of their feasibility (technical constraints, logistics and regulations), acceptability (societal and financial aspects) and availability. The first solution is to suppress any source of pain that brings no obvious advantage to the animals or the producers, as well as sources of pain for which potential benefits are largely exceeded by the negative effects. For instance, tail docking of cattle has recently been eliminated. Genetic selection on the basis of resistance criteria (as e.g. for lameness in cattle and poultry) or reduction of undesirable traits (e.g. boar taint in pigs) may also reduce painful conditions or procedures. The second solution is to substitute a technique causing pain by another less-painful method. For example, if dehorning cattle is unavoidable, it is preferable to perform it at a very young age, cauterising the horn bud. Animal management and constraint systems should be designed to reduce the risk for injury and bruising. Lastly, in situations where pain is known to be present, because of animal management procedures such as dehorning or castration, or because of pathology, for example lameness, systemic or local pharmacological treatments should be used to soothe pain. These treatments should take into account the duration of pain, which, in the case of some management procedures or diseases, may persist for longer periods. The administration of pain medication may require the intervention of veterinarians, but exemptions exist where breeders are allowed to use local anaesthesia (e.g. castration and dehorning in Switzerland). Extension of such exemptions, national or European legislation on pain management, or the introduction of animal welfare codes by retailers into their meat products may help further developments. In addition, veterinarians and farmers should be given the necessary tools and information to take into account animal pain in their management decisions.

(Received August 29 2011)

(Accepted November 21 2011)

(Online publication February 21 2012)


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