Rob Kirk (University of Manchester)
A Chance Observation: ethological approaches to laboratory animals and human health c.1945 - 1969.
This paper addresses the influence that ethology had upon experimental practice within the laboratory in post Second World War Britain. It focuses upon the response of Michael Robin Alexander Chance (1915-2000), a zoologically trained pharmacologist, to the problem that animal variation posed to the use of animals in experimental procedures. In contrast to conventional historical accounts of laboratory animal standardization (which focus on genetic standardisation of the animal) Chance's approach to the management of laboratory animals emphasised the importance of the environment. Careful observation of the behaviour of laboratory animals in their ‘natural' environment enabled that environment to be improved so as to better suit the needs of laboratory animals (now termed ‘environmental enrichment') which in turn produced a more ‘cooperative' animal. This paper will explore the reasons for, and the implications of, Chance's environmental approach to animals. It locates the origins of Chance's ideas within the ethos of the Pioneer Health Centre (Peckham) and in so doing identifies synergies between the former's approaches to animal behaviour and the latter's approach to human health.