Introduction

Contemporary research in the life sciences, and particularly biomedicine, involves experimentation on live animals.* This research is considered an important tool in the progress of science. Much of it is directed towards the discovery of new ways to prevent, alleviate, or cure human diseases. However, the animals on which experiments are performed are often housed in such a way that they have limited freedom, or are subjected to distressing or severely painful interventions, or are killed. The overwhelming majority of these animals are mammals with highly developed nervous systems. They cannot, of course,

* The relationship between human beings and other animals is a central theme in this chapter. In referring to non-human animals as "animals," we do not mean to deny that human beings are animals. Following many pieces of legislation, we use the term "laboratory animal" to refer to vertebrates only.

consent to their own participation in research. Nor, generally, will they benefit from such participation. And they appear to be capable of experiencing not only pain, but other forms of suffering as well.

These familiar facts present both the scientific community and society in general with a question: with the ultimate aim of alleviating or preventing human suffering, scientists carry out experiments causing pain and distress to animals, but are we, as human beings, morally justified in acting in this way?

This question has many dimensions, as we hope to show in this chapter. Some advocates of animal rights insist that we are not entitled to harm animals, even when our purpose is noble. Those who think that the human misery caused by the more serious kinds of ill health is a more urgent concern, on the other hand, respond that it would be unwise or unethical to abolish any animal-based experimental program that may lead to the effective treatment of a human disease. Most people appear to accept neither of these positions. Preferring to take a middle course, they regard the benefits gained through research as too important not to be pursued, but also believe we have a duty not to cause animals to suffer unduly.

In this chapter, we offer a survey of the ethical issues that animal research raises. We have not tried to provide a review paper, with comprehensive coverage of approaches and views. Nor have we attempted at any point to present a fully argued case for a particular conclusion about the ethics of animal experimentation — although it will be obvious at times where our sympathies lie. Our aim has instead been to set out prominent ideas in this area and to indicate how these ideas have been developed by specialists in animal ethics.

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