Culture of Care

There is a moral responsibility when working with research animals to maintain high standards of animal welfare. Animal welfare and caring go hand-in-hand. Additionally, the general public has expectations that research animals are used as sparingly as possible, are treated humanely, and provided with a high level of care. The institutional culture, a Culture of Care (CoC), assists in creating this public trust and is a starting point for good regulatory compliance. Although there are legal and regulatory obligations that govern the way animals are treated, this can act as an emotional screen between the researcher and the animal. A CoC should extend beyond consideration of animal experimentation alone and ensures animals are treated with compassion, empathy and respect.

Commitment to Ethical Use of Animals - Culture of Care

Staff within the Division of Biomedical Services have identified a definition of Culture of Care and the elements required to assess aspects of this culture:

1. The Big Picture

Our Vision, Objectives, Values and Expectations should be well thought out, inclusive and communicated effectively to all staff. Policies and procedures should be clearly articulated so that everyone understands the institutional expectations. Policies should be implemented using scientifically sound, performance-based standards. There should be “zero tolerance” for noncompliance. The Nolan Principles (selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership) should be adopted as a value set in all aspects of work and service delivery.

2. Commitment to Improvement

The Culture should be innovative in developing refinements, and in testing and implementing those from elsewhere. All individuals should demonstrate an innovative and active approach to maintaining and improving animal welfare and care. Productive learning from failure should be embraced as it’s about learning from what has worked as well as what has not. This encourages individuals to identify and learn from mistakes and reduces a ‘fear of failure’. For leaders this is about creating a culture that encourages new thinking and provides physical space, financial backing and staff time needed to innovate. People should be empowered to take informed decisions and test new theories that will improve animal care.

3. Effective Decisions

We should use scientific evidence, knowledge and judgement to arrive at sound decisions that impact on animal welfare or care. For all staff, it’s about thoughtful consideration of the wellbeing of animals using acquired experience and knowledge. For leaders, it’s about reaching conclusions using evidence-bases strategies, other professional opinions while considering risks, research impact and security implications. All outcomes should minimise any welfare impact on the animal.

4. Measuring the Culture

An important aspect of any culture is evaluating it and assessing its maturity. This is not easy, nor are there well-documented mechanisms for how to do this. The ethics framework should be central in maintaining and reviewing the culture. Measurement should involve a variety of methods.

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Director: Dr Neil Dear

Division of Biomedical Services
University of Leicester

University Road



Tel: +44 (0) 116 252 5288

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