An “Ethical Framework” for Animal Research

SF Sep 27

Scientists’ thoughts about animal experimentation have evolved over time, with efforts to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research now being actively considered prior to experimentation thanks to efforts by Russell and Birch.

However, as Dr. Hope Ferdowsian points out in a new opinion piece in Scientific American, in many ways, “we’re still acting as though we don’t know better.” Even with the “3 Rs” principles in place, countless animals are nonetheless subjected to cruel and painful experiments every year.

In her piece, Dr. Ferdowsian examines the possibility of extending to animal experimentation the same ethical principles that we apply to human research.

Experiments on human subjects had rocky beginnings, with the Tuskegee Syphilis study and Willowbrook State School hepatitis study leading to important reforms in human research to make it more ethical. These reforms resulted in the 1979 publication of the Belmont Report. The report identified basic ethical principles that should serve as the foundation for performing research involving human subjects, as well as guidelines to ensure that research with human subjects is carried out in accordance with those principles.

The ethical framework in the Belmont Report “places anti-maleficence and justice front and center in decisions about whether human research projects should proceed,” Ferdowsian notes. She suggests that there is no question that animals, who, like humans, are capable of feeling pain and pleasure and can suffer from experimentation, could also benefit from having a similar ethical framework in place.

“Extending the Belmont Report principles to animals would set the stage for a just and anti-maleficent framework for decisions about the use of animals in research,” she writes. “It would also help promote increased transparency, improved academic standards of publishing and greater investments in more reliable and translatable human-centered, modern research methods.”

From NAVS’ perspective, establishing such a framework would force researchers to confront and address the ethical issues that are inherent in animal use, and would thus serve as an important step toward ending their use as research subjects.

NAVS agrees that animals do not belong in laboratories, and we remain committed to ending their unnecessary suffering in scientific research. Having a strong ethical framework in place regarding animal research would be extremely helpful in achieving our ultimate goal of ending the exploitation of animals used in science.

You can support the advancement of humane, human-relevant research. Your donation to NAVS will help advance the development and use of innovative and human-relevant solutions without the use of harmful, flawed and costly animal experiments.

Source: Ferdowsian, H. “Stop Torturing Animals in the Name of Science,” Scientific American, September 16, 2021.