From Mice to Monkeys? Beyond Orthodox Approaches to the Ethics of Animal Model Choice
Department of Social Medicine, Department of Philosophy, and Center for Bioethics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240, USA
Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich; 8006 Zurich, Switzerland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 October 2019 / Revised: 6 December 2019 / Accepted: 11 December 2019 / Published: 1 January 2020
New tools, allowing scientists to make precise changes to mammal genomes, have made possible future increased use of larger mammals in biomedical research, such as primates, pigs, and dogs. This paper addresses ethical issues that are raised by using larger mammals instead of smaller ones in this research. Because scientists who use animals in research follow strict guidelines, we first examine what those guidelines suggest for using larger mammals. We then consider what philosophers, who write about the ethics of animal use, consider as the important questions in evaluating which (if any) animals are acceptable to use in research. We find that philosophical perspectives have typically been interested in the question of when or if animal use is justified, while biomedical research guidance has assumed that animal use is justified but defined specific limits to that use. To address directly the ethical questions that arise in the practice of biomedical research in selecting which animals to use, we consider an approach to ethics that is focused on character and living well (or flourishing). This paper is valuable to society in drawing attention to the ethical questions, rather than merely the scientific issues, that are important in selecting which animals to use in biomedical research.