Are animal experiments necessary? Are they morally justified?
Animal experiments are one of the traditional approaches to studying how human and animal bodies work (in health and illness) and for testing medicines and chemical products. Scientists who use animals argue that there is no other way of achieving their scientific objectives.
However, there is serious debate about the value of information obtained from much animal use and whether the results from research on mice for example can be applied to humans. Some animal experiments also appear to be driven simply by scientific curiosity or commercial interests.
Public opinion and the law
Polls show that most people think some animal use is justified, but they set limits on the use of particular species, the level of suffering and the purpose of experiments. This is reflected in UK law. Before granting a licence for research, the Home Office weighs the potential harms to the animals against the potential benefits of the project (see ethical review), and has to be satisfied that there are no alternatives available and that the numbers and suffering of animals will be minimised.
Who makes decisions about animal use?
The Home Office, national and international bodies that regulate the marketing of medicines and chemicals, funders of research and scientific journals, as well as the scientists themselves, all have an influence on whether and how animal research is done.
What we think
- The need to use animals and the justification for the suffering caused, should be challenged much more critically with animals' lives and welfare given higher priority.
- There are limits to what should be done to animals in the name of science - we believe that these are exceeded.
- Badly designed and poorly carried out experiments are invalid science and waste animals' lives.
- Even scientifically valid research may not be worthwhile or may only be of interest to a few people so does not justify harming animals.
- If research results are not put to good use, animals' lives have been wasted.
- Decisions about animal use are largely made by scientists, for scientists - a wider range of perspectives should be involved.
- We want to see an end to animal suffering in the name of science. A more humane approach is needed.