Researchers in China subjected rabbits to severe third-degree burns before strapping them to an automatic shaking device in order to mimic the potential shaking simulation en route to hospitals after a burn injury. The BUAV is writing to the journal that published the paper to ask for more details on how the rabbits were treated.
A total of 48 healthy New Zealand white rabbits were injected with a short-acting anaesthetic before they were then burned with napalm to produce a third-degree burn that covered 40% of their bodies. Half of the injured animals were immediately strapped into an automatic shaking device which shook them around in different directions for up to 24 hours. Some of the rabbits were kept alive for up to 48 hours after being burned and shook. Some were given intravenous fluid replacement to combat blood loss. The rabbits then underwent a surgical procedure in which tubes connected to a blood pressure measuring device were inserted into an artery in their neck. At the end of the study, all of the rabbits were killed and their hearts and kidneys were dissected.
The experiment, published in the journal Burns, was poorly described and crucial information on the condition of the rabbits after the burns were inflicted as well as the measures taken to prevent suffering was not provided. It is not clear if the rabbits were anaesthetised for the entire 48 hours but, based on the doses of drugs reported to have been given to the rabbits, it is likely they were conscious during the 24 hour shaking procedure. Appallingly, there was no mention of any pain relief given to the rabbits to ease the intense pain that would have been caused by the severe napalm burn. Unfortunately, according to previous work done by the BUAV, poor reporting of how animals are treated in research is a common problem in scientific journals1. We are joining the call for journals to be more transparent and ethical in their publishing.
We are extremely concerned that such a severe experiment was reported without the authors providing consideration in the article for animal welfare. Furthermore, it is also shocking that the journal allowed the paper to be published when it is missing such critical information. We have written to the journal to express our concerns about the publication of the experiment.
1. Shaking stress aggravates burn-induced cardiovascular and renal disturbances in a rabbit model. (2012). Burns.
2. Taylor, K. (2010) Reporting the Implementation of the Three Rs in European Primate and Mouse Research Papers: Are We Making Progress? Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 38, 495-517.