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Animals 2014, 4(4), 729-741; doi:10.3390/ani4040729

Ethical and Animal Welfare Considerations in Relation to Species Selection for Animal Experimentation

Emeritus, University of Bristol, Old Sock Cottage, Mudford Sock, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 8EA, UK
Received: 12 March 2014 / Revised: 14 August 2014 / Accepted: 11 November 2014 / Published: 3 December 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethical and Social Dimensions of Animal Experimentation)
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Simple Summary

When making a choice of species for animal experimentation we must balance its suitability as a model for human medicine against the potential harms to the animals both from the procedures and the quality of their lifetime experience. The capacity to experience pain may be similar in mammals, birds and fish. The capacity to suffer from fear is governed more by sentience than cognitive ability, so it cannot be assumed that rodents or farm animals suffer less than dogs or primates. I suggest that it is unethical to base the choice of species for animal experimentation simply on the basis that it will cause less distress within society.

Abstract

Ethical principles governing the conduct of experiments with animals are reviewed, especially those relating to the choice of species. Legislation requires that the potential harm to animals arising from any procedure should be assessed in advance and justified in terms of its possible benefit to society. Potential harms may arise both from the procedures and the quality of the animals’ lifetime experience. The conventional approach to species selection is to use animals with the “lowest degree of neurophysiological sensitivity”. However; this concept should be applied with extreme caution in the light of new knowledge. The capacity to experience pain may be similar in mammals, birds and fish. The capacity to suffer from fear is governed more by sentience than cognitive ability, so it cannot be assumed that rodents or farm animals suffer less than dogs or primates. I suggest that it is unethical to base the choice of species for animal experimentation simply on the basis that it will cause less distress within society. A set of responsibilities is outlined for each category of moral agent. These include regulators, operators directly concerned with the conduct of scientific experiments and toxicology trials, veterinarians and animal care staff; and society at large. View Full-Text
Keywords: reduction; replacement; refinement; utilitarianism; autonomy; justice; ethical matrix; moral agents; sentience reduction; replacement; refinement; utilitarianism; autonomy; justice; ethical matrix; moral agents; sentience
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

Webster, J. Ethical and Animal Welfare Considerations in Relation to Species Selection for Animal Experimentation. Animals 2014, 4, 729-741.

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