The Use of Animals in Research
This chapter discusses the use of animals in research. It provides a brief history of animal research and examines the ethical arguments for and against animal experimentation. The chapter discusses the animal rights views of Peter Singer and Tom Regan and considers some morally significant differences between animals and humans. It also discusses some principles for the ethical treatment of animal in research, such as the “three Rs”—reduction, replacement, and refinement—as well as animal research regulations.
Experimentation on (nonhuman) animals is one of the most controversial issues in research ethics. Like the abortion debate, the issue has been hotly contested and often violent. Animal rights activists have freed laboratory animals and destroyed research records, materials, equipment, and buildings to protest what they consider immoral uses of animals (Koenig 1999). Animal welfare organizations have not condoned violence, but they have taken strong stands against specific types of animal research. Researchers, on the other hand, have rallied around the cause of animal research and have developed professional organizations, such as the National Association for Biomedical Research and the Foundation for Biomedical Research, to promote the humane use of animals in research. Given the highly polarized nature of this debate, one wonders whether there can be any hope of some consensus on the issue (DeGrazia 1991).
Estimates of the number of animals used in research vary from 17 to 70 million animals per year (LaFollette and Shanks 1996). Advances in technology have made it possible to eliminate some uses of animals in research and replace animal models with other testing procedures, such as tissue cultures and computer simulations (Barnard and Kaufman 1997). Researchers are also finding ways to obtain valid results using fewer animals. Additionally, universities are using fewer live animals in educating graduate and undergraduate students. The number of animal experimental procedures conducted in the United Kingdom declined from 5.2 million in 1978 to 3 million in 1998. However, this trend may reverse as researchers increase the number of animals used in transgenic research (Stokstad 1999).
Approximately 40% of animals used in research are used in basic or applied research, 26% are used in drug development, and 20% are used in safety testing. The remaining 14% are used for educational or other scientific purposes (Pence 1995). Most of what we know about basic animal physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, development, genetics, cytology, neurology, immunology, cardiology, and endocrinology has been gained through experiments on animals. Animals are commonly used in applied research to test new