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Open AccessArticle

No Pain, No Gain? In Defence of Genetically Disenhancing (Most) Research Animals

1,† and 2,*,†
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 1PT, UK
Institute for Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich, 8006 Zurich, Switzerland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Authors should both be considered first authors and both contributed equally to this work.
Animals 2019, 9(4), 154;
Received: 7 February 2019 / Revised: 2 April 2019 / Accepted: 4 April 2019 / Published: 9 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Ethics)
PDF [218 KB, uploaded 9 April 2019]

Simple Summary

Millions of animals are used for scientific purposes in the EU every year. The procedures they undergo often cause significant pain, suffering and distress. New gene editing technologies now potentially offer a new and feasible way to genetically modify research animals in order to reduce or eliminate their ability to feel pain and to suffer. In this paper, we discuss the ethical concerns this new technology and new possibility raise and evaluate the implications of such genetic modifications with regards to the legal regulations in animal research in Europe.


Every year, around 12 million animals are used for the purpose of scientific research in the European Union alone. The procedures performed on them often cause significant pain and suffering. Despite regulations aimed at reducing this suffering, we can expect millions of research animals to continue to suffer in the near to mid-term future. Given this reality, we propose the use of gene editing to create research animals with a reduced capacity for suffering, in particular, from pain. We argue that our proposal would be in line with moral principles embedded in European regulations regarding animal research, and that it would facilitate compliance with these regulations. We also respond to the strongest argument against our proposal—the ‘no pain no gain’ argument. View Full-Text
Keywords: bioethics; animal ethics; genetic disenhancement; animal research ethics bioethics; animal ethics; genetic disenhancement; animal research ethics
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

Devolder, K.; Eggel, M. No Pain, No Gain? In Defence of Genetically Disenhancing (Most) Research Animals. Animals 2019, 9, 154.

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