Since January 2013, scientific projects involving cephalopods carried out in European countries, and in collaboration with European scientists, have been regulated by Directive 2010/63/EU. According to Article 61 of the Directive, Member States have to transpose and adopt into national regulations the necessary procedures to comply with it.
Due to its recent revision, special attention is paid to strengthen the legislation and improve the welfare of animals used for experimental practices, as well as to firmly anchor the Directive to the principle of the Three R’s in the European Union.
The 2010/63/EU Directive includes, for the first time, an entire class of invertebrate species in the list of animals, i.e. live cephalopods. The inclusion of all living cephalopods (larval and adult forms) has a number of practical implications for those undertaking research, including: supply of animals, transport, housing and handling, anaesthesia, criteria for recognizing pain, suffering and distress, application of humane end-points, and euthanasia. Up to the present, such implications have been only marginally explored.
While ‘Guidelines’ for the use of animals in experimental procedures are available for a large number of laboratory animals (for example mammals and fishes, see also CCAC guidelines), currently there is little specific guidance for cephalopods, and the current version of the Directive does not provide any information for these species. However, a coordinated effort of the cephalopod community and laboratory animal science associations is ongoing. It is expected that the first edition of ‘Guidelines for the care and welfare of Cephalopods in experiments and testing’ will soon be available. This document has been presented during an ad hoc session of the FELASA-SECAL 2013 international congress (10-13 June 2013, Spain; “Cephalopods and Directive 2010/63: challenges and opportunities”).
A recent survey of published research involving cephalopods, identified and mapped institutions and researchers all over the world, and recognized more than one thousand papers published between 2006 and today. European researchers represent a large quota. According to this query, Sepia officinalis and Octopus vulgaris are the most studied species in the European Union (23% and 16% of the sample respectively). Overall, a very wide range of cephalopod species has been utilized for publications, including some that do not inhabit EU waters (e.g. genera Nautilus and Idiosepius).