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Open AccessCommentary
Animals 2014, 4(4), 643-656; doi:10.3390/ani4040643

Is There a Need for a More Expansive Use of Ethics and Values in Reflecting on the Use of Animals in Scientific Research?

Kotare Bioethics, Wellington, New Zealand
Received: 8 May 2014 / Revised: 4 September 2014 / Accepted: 19 September 2014 / Published: 10 October 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethical and Social Dimensions of Animal Experimentation)
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Simple Summary

Debates about animal research are often polarized. On one side, increased knowledge, medical treatments or enhanced animal production are seen to justify harms. On the other, animals have rights constraining their use. Both sides fail to provide adequate support for this contentious use of animals. Reflecting the richness of ethics, it is suggested that empathy and respect for the animal, and greater acknowledgement of the value of experiences and care could also be considered. Along with a more informed understanding of the benefits of research and of the aims of animal rights, a more sophisticated ethic may reflect the common ground between the poles of the debate.

Abstract

Although reflecting a long tradition of moral reflection that the use of animals is acceptable as long as it is humane, the tension between causing harm to animals in research and the benefits to humans can nevertheless be troubling. Utilitarian arguments that appeal to the value of those practices in sustaining and enhancing human lives, and rights-based arguments which seek to constrain them, can be inadequate. Reflecting a more engaging, inclusive and sophisticated understanding of human activity, justification for animal use could be expanded to reflect the fullness and richness of ethical thinking. This might see more explicit inclusion of perspectives borne of virtues, caring, experiences, and respect for the essence of the animal, and different ways of understanding and knowing animals, values drawn from the middle ground of commonly acceptable human-animal relationships. Such values, already clearly evident in research, could be more widely integrated into arguments justifying animal use. A more expansive approach would not only reflect reality and acknowledge that costs and benefits are shared more widely, but it might result in more equitable, effective and humane science. It might also serve to reduce some of the tension long evident in the relationship between humans and animals. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal research; benefits; harms; animal rights; ethics; respect; care; virtues; experiences animal research; benefits; harms; animal rights; ethics; respect; care; virtues; experiences
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Fisher, M.W. Is There a Need for a More Expansive Use of Ethics and Values in Reflecting on the Use of Animals in Scientific Research? Animals 2014, 4, 643-656.

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