Is it ethical for animals to be used in research?

The question I am asking this week is one that has caused a debate for quite a substantial amount of time; and I believe if completely justified and non-invasive then animal research could be considered to be ethical. 

It comes down to this – there is only a certain limit as to how many drugs etc. can be tested on humans as the implications of the drugs may not be determined as of yet. Therefore in this scenario it would be considered appropriate to test the drugs on animals for the benefit/disadvantage of the human race. Although the obvious argument that animal testing is not appropriate is for cosmetic usage that can put animals at risk for no real benefit for the human race. 

From a psychological perspective, Gosling (2001) has found that research on animals has been able to provide valid suggestions as to how the personality of the human mind works. This does not necessarily get put forward by testing drugs on the animals for instance but does test on them to clarify points that had previously been made about the human mind. Furthermore this is a enables psychologist to reinforce their findings.

Harlow (1958) was able to also use animal research in a way in which had applications that could be related to human beings. He studied attachment and found that monkeys would much rather a comfort rather than food and nutrition. These findings were also applicable to humans suggesting that attachment is also highly important as well as food.

Although invasive studying on animals does happen on a regular basis – for drugs etc which can be extremely beneficial to the human race. Countless pieces of research have been able to show that drugs are suitable to use on human as they were on animals.

However the well being of the animal should always be considered when conducting a piece of research and should only be carried out if there is no other alternative option.


11 thoughts on “Is it ethical for animals to be used in research?

  1. Several critics do not agree that using animals within research is ethical and have argued towards moral justification for the animal species. The first argument put forward is ‘Speciesism’. Animal rights activists have argued that the discrimination in terms of species does not differ from other discrimination on the basis of gender, race or age (Singer, 1990). Furthermore, it is proposed that the use of animals in research demonstrates speciesism (Ryder, 1973). The second argument for moral justification refers to the topic of Sentient beings; It is a well believed phenomena that animals can experience emotions and pain. It has even been demonstrated that animals experience a process of self-awareness. One example being an elephant’s ability to recognize their mirror image and use this to explore hidden their own hidden body parts (Plotnik et al, 2006). Additionally, chimpanzees (an animal commonly used in research) demonstrate their cognitive ability of recognizing themselves in mirror reflections (Delfour & Marten, 2001). Thirdly, with reference to Animal rights, Regan (1984) has argued that there are absolutely no circumstances where animal research (especially cosmetic trials as you state) is justified stating “animals have the basic rights of being treated with respect and should not be used as a part of research for human benefit”.

    However, it is important to note that are some existing measures for the protection of animals within research studies. For example, Russell and Birch (1959) introduced what is referred to as the ‘three Rs’ within animal research. These are as follow:-
    • Reduction –use smallest number of animals possible
    • Replacement – use alternative methods e.g. brain scans
    • Refinement – use techniques to reduce stress

    There are more existing constraints that strictly regulate the use of animals in the research procedure. To ensure the protection of animals in psychological research the governing body of psychology; British Psychology Society (BPS) has published guidelines for researchers regarding the use of animals. Additionally, UK legislation the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act (1986) strictly controls animal research. Legislation states a number of circumstances where animal research is appropriate. Firstly, animal research can only be conducted in licensed laboratories by licensed researchers on licensed research projects. Secondly, animal research is only acceptable when research cannot be conducted using a human sample, a minimal number of animals are tested on, the results gained from experimentation will be important and result in many real world applications and the discomfort of the animal is kept at an absolute minimum by the use of painkillers.

    To conclue, if all of these guidelines provided are strictly obeyed then in some cases where both the human and animal species will benefit, research using animals can be seen as justified.

  2. psud78 says:

    Experimenters are very aware of the ethical problem and acknowledge that experiments with animals should be made as humane as possible. It is morally wrong to cause any harm to animals when experimenting on them, but this produces various problems.

    The people who are for animal experiments say that they produce such great benefits for humanity that it is morally acceptable to harm a few animals. The case against is that the level of suffering and the number of animals involved are both so high that the benefits to humanity don’t provide moral justification.

    Researchers are encouraged to follow a set of principles which reduces the impact of research on Animals. These principles are referred to as the three R’s; Reduction, Refinement, Replacement.

    Reduction refers to the reduction of animals used, by improving techniques and also sharing information gathered with other researchers. Refinement is when the experiment is refined in order to reduce the animals suffering. This can be done by using less invasive techniques and improving the level of care. Replacement is the replacing the use of animals in experiments with other techniques, such as Experimenting on cell cultures instead of whole animals, Using computer models, human volunteers or epidemiological studies.

    This debate has been a strong one for many years, and will probably never go away. Those in favour of animal experiments say that the good done to humans outweighs the harm done to the animals. It can’t be used to defend all forms of experimentation since there are some forms of suffering that are probably impossible to justify even if the benefits are exceptionally valuable to humanity. However, experimenters do, in general, try to reduce the harm caused to animals, and always try to avoid a situation where using animals is the only option.

  3. leprice91 says:

    I agree and disagree with animal testing. I agree with it because sometime we need to experiment on animals as we are unable to test it on humans as it could cause major consequences. Also experimenters do have to make sure suffering is minimised and human benefits are gained. There is also the three Rs which are a set of principles that scientists are encouraged to follow in order to reduce the impact of research on animals.
    Reducing the number of animals used in experiments by:
    • Improving experimental techniques
    • Improving techniques of data analysis
    • Sharing information with other researchers
    Refining the experiment or the way the animals are cared for so as to reduce their suffering by:
    • Using less invasive techniques
    • Better medical care
    • Better living conditions
    Replacing experiments on animals with alternative techniques such as:
    • Experimenting on cell cultures instead of whole animals
    • Using computer models
    • Studying human volunteers
    • Using epidemiological studies

    These are there to help protect the animals as they are obviously unable to speak for themselves. This is the reason I do disagree with animal testing because they are unable to tell us what affect the drug or test is doing to them so I believe it’s unfair as the animal could be in a lot distress and anxiety but no showing any change so more drugs and test are put into them. I think there always be animal testing somewhere in the world so all we can do is put rules they should follow so not to much harm could come to the animal

  4. Animals that are not of great and profound intelligence as judged by science rather than a personal opinion are excellent candidates for animal testing. When we curse the plight of cancer on our planet and walk and bake in fund raising activity how right is it to test on these suffering people with the knowledge that you arent helping them but gambling with their lives? Test an animal so a person doesnt have to suffer and die so that another person can suffer and die so that maybe somewhere in this ridiculous process a person might live. there are reasons clinical trials go through various stages before they test humans. this website might assist some.

  5. 1jessicakes says:

    Rowland (2008) [] believes that actually, human testing is our best option and the world should be ‘less concerned’ about volunteering human candidates. Rowland insists that the use of microdosing – a technique whereby a small amount of the drug is used and monitored carefully on a human candidate – is a much better alternative to testing on animals, as only 8% of animal approved drugs were actually safe to humans (PETA, 2005).

  6. psucd3 says:

    I would like to point out that before any prescription drugs are allowed to be tested on humans they have to be tested on animals according to the international Helsinki declaration and the European Directive (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency[MHRA], 2008). This is due to the fact that test tube experiments and human cell culture experiments do not tell us about how the medicine will work in the internal system of humans (MHRA, 2008). Considering that we share a large proportion of our genes with mice (Mayor, 2002), they are an ideal substitute to humans and all are bred purposefully for testing (Rowan, 1997). As to whether it’s ethical or not, I believe it is as most of the time the animals are not in any pain as they’re given anaesthetics or analgesics (Rowan, 1997) and animal research in the UK is so closely monitored that the authorities would know/find out if any breech of animal welfare was being conducted.

    Mayor, S. (2002). Mouse Genome Shows many Disease Genes Shared with Humans. British Medical Journal, 325, 1319.
    Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. (2008). Pre-clinical Research. Retrieved from
    Rowan, A. N. (1997). The Benefits and Ethics of Animal Research. Scientific American, 276(2), 79-93.

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