Bioethics Blogs

40 Years of Research Ethics: Environmental Enrichment

by Meryn Robinson, education and membership services, and Avery Avrakotos, education and policy manager

Since its founding in 1974, PRIM&R’s highest priority has been to provide those charged with ensuring research protections, as well as those involved in the design and implementation of research protocols, with the education, practical tools, and cutting-edge strategies needed for their work protecting subjects. As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, we are reflecting on those four decades of connecting and protecting by revisiting events that have shaped the field in our 40 Years of Research Ethics series.

Environmental enrichment, now a well-established concept within the world of animal research, has transformed from placing objects in otherwise empty zoo cages to a broad practice that encompasses “feelings based” approaches to support animals’ psychological well-being as well as functioning-based approaches to animal welfare. 

The regulatory mandate for environmental enrichment has a long history. In 1970, as a result of amendments to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), enclosure standards for all warm-blooded animals were developed.  The need for additional regulations became apparent in 1981 when Alex Pacheco, an animal rights activist and cofounder of the then-newly formed organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, discovered and documented violations of the AWA as a volunteer at the Institute for Biological Research in Silver Spring, MD. Pacheco’s work drew public attention to the care of laboratory animals. 

In the years following the Silver Spring Monkey case, a number of bills advancing standards for the care of laboratory animals were introduced in the US House and Senate.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.