Emotions and Ethical Decision-Making in Animal Ethics Committees
Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7068, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 234, 532 23 Skara, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 August 2018 / Revised: 11 October 2018 / Accepted: 13 October 2018 / Published: 17 October 2018
In the EU, research projects using animals must be evaluated and approved by an ethical committee prior to start to balance potential harm to the animals with potential benefit to humans, in order to ensure moral standards, scientific validity, and public trust. However, different levels of knowledge among committee members, different views on which ethical aspects are relevant, member hierarchies, and a discrepancy between prevailing scientific norms of objectivity and the necessary conditions of a proper ethical evaluation makes it challenging. If applications are not properly evaluated, this can cause distrust in the ethics committees by society. We analyzed the role of scientific norms among Swedish committee members, application of the harm–benefit model, and the role of emotions in the ethical decision-making process. Researchers and chairpersons were most positive, whereas laypersons from animal welfare organizations were most negative. Laypersons more often felt emotionally engaged in the evaluation, but also that they felt they had less influence. We argue that the prevailing scientific norms are preventing necessary conditions for sound ethical evaluation consideration by excluding some members from the discourse. We propose that alternative models for ethical decision-making could contribute to an improved process and hence meet public trust.