Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Minimising pain in farm animals: the 3S approach – ‘Suppress, Substitute, Soothe’

  • R. Guatteo (a1) (a2) (a3), O. Levionnois (a4) (a5), D. Fournier (a6) (a7), D. Guémené (a8), K. Latouche (a9), C. Leterrier (a10), P. Mormède (a11), A. Prunier (a12), J. Servière (a13), C. Terlouw (a14) and P. Le Neindre (a15)...

Recently, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research appointed an expert committee to review the issue of pain in food-producing farm animals. To minimise pain, the authors developed a ‘3S’ approach accounting for ‘Suppress, Substitute and Soothe’ by analogy with the ‘3Rs’ approach of ‘Reduction, Refinement and Replacement’ applied in the context of animal experimentation. Thus, when addressing the matter of pain, the following steps and solutions could be assessed, in the light of their feasibility (technical constraints, logistics and regulations), acceptability (societal and financial aspects) and availability. The first solution is to suppress any source of pain that brings no obvious advantage to the animals or the producers, as well as sources of pain for which potential benefits are largely exceeded by the negative effects. For instance, tail docking of cattle has recently been eliminated. Genetic selection on the basis of resistance criteria (as e.g. for lameness in cattle and poultry) or reduction of undesirable traits (e.g. boar taint in pigs) may also reduce painful conditions or procedures. The second solution is to substitute a technique causing pain by another less-painful method. For example, if dehorning cattle is unavoidable, it is preferable to perform it at a very young age, cauterising the horn bud. Animal management and constraint systems should be designed to reduce the risk for injury and bruising. Lastly, in situations where pain is known to be present, because of animal management procedures such as dehorning or castration, or because of pathology, for example lameness, systemic or local pharmacological treatments should be used to soothe pain. These treatments should take into account the duration of pain, which, in the case of some management procedures or diseases, may persist for longer periods. The administration of pain medication may require the intervention of veterinarians, but exemptions exist where breeders are allowed to use local anaesthesia (e.g. castration and dehorning in Switzerland). Extension of such exemptions, national or European legislation on pain management, or the introduction of animal welfare codes by retailers into their meat products may help further developments. In addition, veterinarians and farmers should be given the necessary tools and information to take into account animal pain in their management decisions.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Minimising pain in farm animals: the 3S approach – ‘Suppress, Substitute, Soothe’
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Minimising pain in farm animals: the 3S approach – ‘Suppress, Substitute, Soothe’
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Minimising pain in farm animals: the 3S approach – ‘Suppress, Substitute, Soothe’
      Available formats
Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

CP Allison , RC Johnson , ME Doumit 2005. The effects of halothane sensitivity on carcass composition and meat quality in HAL-1843-normal pigs. Journal of Animal Science 83, 671678.

CP Allison , AL Marr , NL Berry , DB Anderson , DJ Ivers , LF Richardson , K Keffaber , RC Johnson , ME Doumit 2006. Effects of halothane sensitivity on mobility status and blood metabolites of HAL-1843-normal pigs after rigorous handling. Journal of Animal Science 84, 10151021.

DE Anderson , WW Muir 2005. Pain management in cattle. Veterinary Clinics of North America – Food Animal Practice 21, 623635, v–vi.

SS Anil , L Anil , J Deen 2002. Challenges of pain assessment in domestic animals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220, 313319.

F Barillet , R Rupp , S Mignon-Grasteau , J-M Astruc , M Jacquin 2001. Genetic analysis for mastitis resistance and milk somatic cell score in French Lacaune dairy sheep. Genetics, Selection, Evolution 33, 397415.

SC Bishop , CA Morris 2007. Genetics of disease resistance in sheep and goats. Small Ruminant Research 70, 4859.

HJ Blokhuis 1989. The effect of a sudden change in floor type on pecking behaviour in chicks. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 22, 6573.

D Boesch , A Steiner , M Stauffacher 2006. Castration of calves: a survey among Swiss suckler beef farmers. Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde 148, 231244.

K Breuer , MEM Sutcliffe , JT Mercer , KA Rance , NE O'Connell , IA Sneddon , SA Edwards 2005. Heritability of clinical tail-biting and its relation to performance traits. Livestock Production Science 93, 8794.

G Bretschneider 2005. Effects of age and method of castration on performance and stress response of beef male cattle: a review. Livestock Production Science 97, 89100.

J Breward , MJ Gentle 1985. Neuroma formation and abnormal afferent nerve discharges after partial break amputation (beak trimming) in poultry. Experientia 41, 11321134.

B Buitenhuis , J Hedegaard , L Janss , P Sorensen 2009. Differentially expressed genes for aggressive pecking behaviour in laying hens. BMC Genomics 10, 544.

C Chambers , L Powell , E Wilson , LE Green 1995. A postal survey of tail biting in pigs in south-west England. Veterinary Record 136, 147148.

M Clapperton , AB Diack , O Matika , EJ Glass , CD Gladney , MA Mellencamp , A Hoste , SC Bishop 2009. Traits associated with innate and adaptive immunity in pigs: heritability and associations with performance under different health status conditions. Genetics, Selection, Evolution 41, 5465.

F Coopman , N Gengler , AF Groen , S De Smet , WM Van Aalderen 2004. Comparison of external morphological traits of newborns to inner morphological traits of the dam in the doublemuscled Belgian Blue beef breed. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 121, 128134.

JV Craig , WM Muir 1996. Group selection for adaptation to multiple-hen cages: beak-related mortality, feathering, and bodyweight responses. Poultry Science 75, 294302.

IJH Duncan , GS Slee , E Seawright , J Breward 1989. Behavioural consequences of partial beak amputation (beak trimming) in poultry. British Poultry Science 30, 479488.

RJ Erskine , S Wagner , FJ De Graves 2003. Mastitis therapy and pharmacology. Veterinary Clinics of North America – Food Animal Practice 19, 109138.

X Fernandez , E Neyraud , T Astruc , V Sante 2002. Effects of halothane genotype and pre-slaughter treatment on pig meat quality. Part 1. Post mortem metabolism, meat quality indicators and sensory traits of m. Longissimus lumborum. Meat Science 62, 429437.

B Fredriksen , O Nafstad 2006. Surveyed attitudes, perceptions and practices in Norway regarding the use of local anaesthesia in piglet castration. Research in Veterinary Science 81, 293295.

J Fujii , K Otsu , F Zorzato , S Deleon , VK Khanna , JE Weiler , PJ Obrien , DH Maclennan 1991. Identification of a mutation in porcine ryanodine receptor associated with malignant hyperthermia. Science 253, 448451.

L Fulponi 2006. Private voluntary standards in the food system: the perspective of major food retailers in OECD countries. Food Policy 31, 113.

M Gallois , Y Le Cozler , A Prunier 2005. Influence of tooth resection in piglets on welfare and performance. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 69, 1323.

MJ Gentle 1991. The acute effects of amputation on peripheral trigeminal afferents in Gallus gallus vardomesticus. Pain 46, 97103.

MJ Gentle , D Waddington , LN Hunter , RB Jones 1990. Behavioural evidence for persistent pain following partial beak amputation in chickens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 27, 149157.

MJ Gentle , BO Hughes , A Fox , D Waddington 1997. Behavioural and anatomical consequences of two beak trimming methods in 1- and 10-d-old domestic chicks. British Poultry Science 38, 453463.

PC Glatz , CA Lunam 1994. Production and heart-rate responses of chickens beak-trimmed at hatch or at 10 or 42 days of age. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 34, 443447.

DS Glazier 2008. Trade-offs. In Resource allocation theory applied to farm animal production (ed. WM Rauw), pp. 4460. CAB International, Cambridge.

LA Goonewardene , MA Price , MF Liu , RT Berg , CM Erichsen 1999. A study of growth and carcass traits in dehorned and polled composite bulls. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 79, 383385.

WB Gross 1976. Plasma steroid tendency, social environment and Eimeria necatrix infection. Poultry Science 55, 15081512.

MD Guàrdia , J Estany , S Balasch , MA Oliver , M Gispert , A Diestre 2009. Risk assessment of skin damage due to pre-slaughter conditions and RYR1 gene in pigs. Meat Science 81, 745751.

HA Haga , B Ranheim 2005. Castration of piglets: the analgesic effects of intratesticular and intrafunicular lidocaine injection. Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia 32, 19.

HA Haga , S Lykkjen , T Revold , B Ranheim 2006. Effect of intratesticular injection of lidocaine on cardiovascular responses to castration in isoflurane-anesthetized stallions. American Journal of Veterinary Research 67, 403408.

C Hanzen , Y Laurent , WR Ward 1994. Comparison of reproductive performance in Belgian dairy and beef cattle. Theriogenology 41, 10991114.

B Heringstad , G Klemetsdal , J Ruane 2000. Selection for mastitis resistance in dairy cattle: a review with focus on the situation in the Nordic countries. Livestock Production Science 64, 95106.

K Herr , M Titler , P Fine , S Sanders , J Cavanaugh , J Swegle , C Forcucci , X Tang 2010. Assessing and treating pain in hospices: current state of evidence-based practices. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 39, 803819.

JGH Hickford , H Zhou , S Slow , Q Fang 2004. Diversity of the ovine DQA2 gene. Journal of Animal Science 82, 15531563.

FGH Hoe , PL Ruegg 2006. Opinions and practices of Wisconsin dairy producers about biosecurity and animal well-being. Journal of Dairy Science 89, 22972308.

B Huber-Eicher , P Spring 2008. Attitudes of Swiss consumers towards meat from entire or immunocastrated boars: a representative survey. Research in Veterinary Science 85, 625627.

BO Hughes , I Duncan 1972. The influence of strain and environmental factors upon feather pecking and cannibalism in fowls. British Poultry Science 13, 525547.

EJ Hunter , TA Jones , HJ Guise , RHC Penny , S Hoste 2001. The relationship between tail biting in pigs, docking procedure and other management practices. Veterinary Journal 161, 7279.

RJ Julian 1998. Rapid growth problems: ascites and skeletal deformities in broilers. Poultry Science 77, 17731780.

JE Kent , MV Thrusfield , IS Robertson , V Molony 1996. Castration of calves: a study of methods used by farmers in the United Kingdom. Veterinary Record 138, 384387.

JB Kjaer , P Sorensen , G Sub 2001. Divergent selection on feather pecking behaviour in laying hens (Gallus gallus domesticus). Applied Animal Behaviour Science 71, 229239.

PW Knap 2008. Robustness. In Resource allocation theory applied to farm animal production (ed. WM Rauw), pp. 288301. CAB International.

PW Knap , WM Rauw 2008. Selection for high production in pigs. In Resource allocation theory applied to farm animal production (ed. WM Rauw), pp. 210229. CAB International.

JL Krider , JL Albright , MP Plumlee , JH Conrad , CL Sinclair , L Underwood , RG Jones , RB Harrington 1975. Magnesium supplementation, space and docking effects on swine performance and behavior. Journal of Animal Science 40, 10271033.

C Larzul , P le Roy , R Gueblez , A Talmant , J Gogue , P Sellier , G Monin 1997. Effect of halothane genotype (NN, Nn, nn) on growth, carcass and meat quality traits of pigs slaughtered at 95 kg or 125 kg live weight. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 114, 309320.

RA Laven , KE Lawrence , JF Weston , KR Dowson , KJ Stafford 2008. Assessment of the duration of the pain response associated with lameness in dairy cows, and the influence of treatment. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 56, 210217.

E Le Bihan-Duval , C Beaumont , JJ Colleau 1996. Genetic parameters of the twisted legs syndrome in broiler chickens. Genetics, Selection, Evolution 28, 177195.

N Mc Hugh , RD Evans , PR Amer , AG Fahey , DP Berry 2011. Genetic parameters for cattle price and body weight from routinely collected data at livestock auctions and commercial farms. Journal of Animal Science 89, 2939.

C McMeekan , KJ Stafford , DJ Mellor , RA Bruce , RN Ward , NG Gregory 1999. Effects of a local anaesthetic and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic on the behavioural responses of calves to dehorning. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 47, 9296.

SC Mellema , MG Doherr , B Wechsler , S Thuer , A Steiner 2007. Influence of local anaesthesia on pain and distress induced by bloodless castration methods in young lambs. Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde 149, 213225.

G Minozzi , D Guémené , M Couty , D Gourichon , F Minvielle , MH Pinard-van der Laan 2008. Circulating corticosterone reaction to restraint and adrenocorticotropin hormone administration in White Leghorns selected for immune response traits. Poultry Science 87, 22252230.

T Mirkena , G Duguma , A Haile , M Tibbo , AM Okeyo , M Wurzinger , J Sölkner 2010. Genetics of adaptation in domestic farm animals: a review. Livestock Science 132, 112.

C Moinard , M Mendl , CJ Nicol , LE Green 2003. A case control study of on-farm risk factors for tail biting in pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 81, 333355.

V Molony , JE Kent 1997. Assessment of acute pain in farm animals using behavioral and physiological measurements. Journal of Animal Science 75, 266272.

V Molony , JE Kent , IS Robertson 1993. Behavioural responses of lambs of three ages in the first three hours after three methods of castration and tail docking. Research in Veterinary Science 55, 236245.

G Monin , C Larzul , Pl Roy , J Culioli , J Mourot , S Rousset-Akrim , A Talmant , C Touraille , P Sellier 1999. Effects of the halothane genotype and slaughter weight on texture of pork. Journal of Animal Science 77, 408415.

D Morton 1992. Docking of dogs: practical and ethical aspects. The Veterinary Record 131, 301306.

WM Muir 1996. Group selection for adaptation to multiple-hen cages: selection program and direct responses. Poultry Science 75, 447458.

AC Murray , CP Johnson 1998. Impact of the halothane gene on muscle quality and pre-slaughter deaths in Western Canadian pigs. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 78, 543548.

GJ Noonan , JS Rand , J Priest , J Ainscow , JK Blackshaw 1994. Behavioural observations of piglets undergoing tail docking, teeth clipping and ear notching. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 39, 203213.

RHC Penny , FWG Hill 1974. Observations of some conditions in pigs at abattoir with particular reference to tail biting. Veterinary Record 94, 174180.

MP Perez , J Palacio , MP Santolaria , MC Acena , G Chacon , M Gascon , JH Calvo , P Zaragoza , JA Beltran , S Garcia-Belenguer 2002. Effect of transport time on welfare and meat quality in pigs. Meat Science 61, 425433.

KC Prayaga 2007. Genetic options to replace dehorning in beef cattle: a review. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 58, 18.

A Prunier , AM Mounier , M Hay 2005. Effects of castration, tooth resection, or tail docking on plasma metabolites and stress hormones in young pigs. Journal of Animal Science 83, 216222.

B Ranheim , HA Haga , K Ingebrigtsen 2005. Distribution of radioactive lidocaine injected into the testes in piglets. Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 28, 481483.

WM Rauw , E Kanis , EN Noordhuizen-Stassen , FJ Grommers 1998. Undesirable side effects of selection for high production efficiency in farm animals: a review. Livestock Production Science 56, 1533.

MJ Ritter , M Ellis , R Bowman , J Brinkmann , SE Curtis , JM DeDecker , O Mendoza , CM Murphy , DG Orellana , BA Peterson , A Rojo , JM Schlipf , BF Wolter 2008. Effects of season and distance moved during loading on transport losses of market-weight pigs in two commercially available types of trailer. Journal of Animal Science 86, 31373145.

IS Robertson , JE Kent , V Molony 1994. Effect of different methods of castration on behaviour and plasma cortisol in calves of three ages. Research in Veterinary Science 56, 817.

JD Rose 2002. The neurobehavioral nature of fishes and the question of awareness and pain. Reviews in Fisheries Science 10, 138.

JD Rose 2007. Anthropomorphism and ‘mental welfare’ of fishes. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 75, 139154.

R Rupp , G Lagriffoul , JM Astruc , F Barillet 2003. Genetic parameters for milk somatic cell scores and relationships with production traits in French Lacaune dairy sheep. Journal of Dairy Science 86, 14761481.

JL Salak-Johnson , JJ McGlone 2007. Making sense of apparently conflicting data: stress and immunity in swine and cattle. Journal of Animal Science 85, E81E88.

AK Sheridan , CR Howlett , RW Burton 1978. The inheritance of tibial dyschondroplasia in broilers. British Poultry Science 19, 491499.

PB Siegel , CF Honaker , WM Rauw 2008. Selection for high production in poultry. In Resource allocation theory applied to farm animal production (ed. WM Rauw), pp. 230242. CAB International, Cambridge.

KJ Stafford , DJ Mellor 2005. Dehorning and disbudding distress and its alleviation in calves. Veterinary Journal 169, 337349.

KJ Stafford , DJ Mellor , SE Todd , RA Bruce , RN Ward 2002. Effects of local anaesthesia or local anaesthesia plus a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug on the acute cortisol response of calves to five different methods of castration. Research in Veterinary Science 73, 6170.

KJ Stafford , DJ Mellor , SE Todd , RN Ward , CM McMeekan 2003. The effect of different combinations of lignocaine, ketoprofen, xylazine and tolazoline on the acute cortisol response to dehorning in calves. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 51, 219226.

L Star , ED Ellen , K Uitdehaag , FWA Brom 2008. A plea to implement robustness into a breeding goal: poultry as an example. Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 21, 109125.

M Stewart , JM Stookey , KJ Stafford , CB Tucker , AR Rogers , SK Dowling , GA Verkerk , AL Schaefer , JR Webster 2009. Effects of local anesthetic and a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug on pain responses of dairy calves to hot-iron dehorning. Journal of Dairy Science 92, 15121519.

G Stilwell , MS Lima , DM Broom 2008. Effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on long-term pain in calves castrated by use of an external clamping technique following epidural anesthesia. American Journal of Veterinary Research 69, 744750.

G Stilwell , R Campos de Carvalho , N Caroline , MS Lima , DM Broom 2010. Effect of hot-iron disbudding on behaviour and plasma cortisol of calves sedated with xylazine. Research in Veterinary Science 88, 188193.

CL Stull , MA Payne , SL Berry , PJ Hullinger 2002. Evaluation of the scientific justification for tail docking in dairy cattle. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 220, 12981303.

SP Sylvester , DJ Mellor , KJ Stafford , RA Bruce , RN Ward 1998. Acute cortisol responses of calves to scoop dehorning using local anaesthesia and/or cautery of the wound. Australian Veterinary Journal 76, 118122.

ST Ting , B Earley , MA Crowe 2003a. Effect of repeated ketoprofen administration during surgical castration of bulls on cortisol, immunological function, feed intake, growth, and behavior. Journal of Animal Science 81, 12531264.

ST Ting , B Earley , MA Crowe 2004. Effect of cortisol infusion patterns and castration on metabolic and immunological indices of stress response in cattle. Domestic Animal Endocrinology 26, 329349.

ST Ting , B Earley , JM Hughes , MA Crowe 2003b. Effect of ketoprofen, lidocaine local anesthesia, and combined xylazine and lidocaine caudal epidural anesthesia during castration of beef cattle on stress responses, immunity, growth, and behavior. Journal of Animal Science 81, 12811293.

CB Tucker , D Fraser , DM Weary 2001. Tail docking dairy cattle: effects on cow cleanliness and udder health. Journal of Dairy Science 84, 8487.

SP Turner , R Roehe , W Mekkawy , MJ Farnworth , PW Knap , AB Lawrence 2008. Bayesian analysis of genetic associations of skin lesions and behavioural traits to identify genetic components of individual aggressiveness in pigs. Behavior Genetics 38, 6775.

SP Turner , MJ Farnworth , IMS White , S Brotherstone , M Mendl , P Knap , P Penny , AB Lawrence 2006a. The accumulation of skin lesions and their use as a predictor of individual aggressiveness in pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 96, 245259.

SP Turner , R Roehe , RB D'Eath , SH Ison , M Farish , MC Jack , N Lundeheim , L Rydhmer , AB Lawrence 2009. Genetic validation of postmixing skin injuries in pigs as an indicator of aggressiveness and the relationship with injuries under more stable social conditions. Journal of Animal Science 87, 30763082.

RF Veerkamp , JJ Windig , MPL Calus , W Ouweltjes , Y de Haas , B Beerda 2008. Selection for high production in dairy cattle. In Resource allocation theory applied to farm animal production (ed. WM Rauw), pp. 243260. CAB International.

AJF Webster 2002. Rendering unto Caesar: welfare problems in Belgian Blue cattle. Veterinary Journal 163, 228229.

RG White , JA DeShazer , CJ Tressler , GM Borcher , S Davey , A Waninge , AM Parkhurst , MJ Milanuk , ET Clemens 1995. Vocalization and physiological response of pigs during castration with or without a local anesthetic. Journal of Animal Science 73, 381386.

A Willam , C Egger-Danner , J Sölkner , E Gierzinger 2002. Optimization of progeny testing schemes when functional traits play an important role in the total merit index. Livestock Production Science 77, 217225.

MH Yazdi , L Rydhmer , E Ringmar-Cederberg , N Lundeheim , K Johansson 2000. Genetic study of longevity in Swedish Landrace sows. Livestock Production Science 63, 255264.

JJ Zonderland , M Wolthuis-Fillerup , CG Van Reenen , MBM Bracke , B Kemp , LA Den Hartog , HAM Spoolder 2008. Prevention and treatment of tail biting in weaned piglets. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 110, 269281.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1751-7311
  • EISSN: 1751-732X
  • URL: /core/journals/animal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 14
Total number of PDF views: 124 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 461 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.