The text on this page is taken from an informal compilation of opinions of contributors to the online VOLE List. As such, they are not peer reviewed and may contain differences of opinion. Those wishing to contact the list may contact Adrian Smith.
We currently have an ongoing discussion about what the greatest stressor is in relation to transport of animals, and whether longer journeys equate in a linear manner to greater cumulative suffering? I’d always understood it wasn’t necessarily all about the duration of journey but maybe I’m out of date!
Both reports are quite old now, but there may be relevant literature in the LASA and ILAR guidance (reviewed here). They at least make the point that journey duration is not the only factor: journey complexity also matters. See also the NC3Rs page on best practice during transport and the LAR regulations.
This article on farm species may also be of interest.
I agree, the LASA guidance is very useful, to quote: 'Although transport time and distance should be kept to a minimum, from the animals’ perspective the quality of journey is extremely important. An uninterrupted journey is preferable to one broken by stops or rest periods, especially if unloading and re-loading are involved.'
However the guideline doesn't quantify this in terms of a direct measured relationship with stress. I have always thought that with increased journey complexity my concern is regarding sporadic but potentially abrupt or severe distress, especially if several flights involved - multiple take-offs and landings, cages being handled at the airport, possible exposure to environmental variation, noise, any Customs handling, etc. Along with time-related gradual increase in stress from depletion of food/water etc. The courier needs a contingency plan for any disruptions!
A longer journey might also mean disruption to circadian rhythm at the animals' destination, if many time zones are crossed.
I have asked a colleague who did a PhD on the topic. Here is her answer:
There sure isn’t a linear relation between duration and stress of transportation of (laboratory) animals.
What I found in rats is that the fact that they are being transported is the biggest stressor, the duration does barely counts. This of course also has impact on internal transport, within or between buildings of the same facility, which is now often discarded.
In mice it even seems that animals that are transported over several days, already start acclimatizing during the last part of transportation (internal data).
Data can be found in a PhD thesis from the University of Utrecht: Transportation of Laboratory rats: Effects of a Black Box. This thesis also contains some cases studies on mice and guinea pigs. And in the publications (see this page for links):
Arts JWM, Kramer K, Arndt SS, Ohl F. The impact of transportation on physiological and behavioural parameters in Wistar rats - implications for acclimatization periods. ILAR journal 2012, 53(1), E82-E98
Arts JWM, Kramer K, Arndt SS, Ohl F. Sex differences in physiological acclimatization after transfer in Wistar rats. Animals 2014, 4, 693-711
Arts JWM, Oosterhuis NR, Kramer K, Arndt SS, Ohl F, Effects of transfer from breeding to research facility on the welfare of rats. Animals 2014, 4,712-728
There will be many differences between species.
With fish, time/duration can be critical if we are unable to maintain good environmental conditions. Transport is one of the biggest challenges.
If it is not done in good condition we will see the appearance of several pathologies triggered by stress. The duration, number of animals can be seen as linear factors that can aggravate stress.