Ethics and animal research
What do we know?
- Ask students in small groups to discuss two of the following questions and make a list of answers:
- Why are animals used in experiments?
- What are the potential benefits?
- What types of products are tested on animals?
- What are the potential benefits of using animals in experiments?
- What are the harms for animals of using them in experiments?
- In what ways can animals suffer?
- Are there any alternatives to using animals in research and, if so, what might they be?
- Asking each question in turn, ask the students to feed back their answers.
Learning styles: auditory.
Ethics, animal experiments and the law
- Ask the students to read the factsheet Ethics, animal experiments and the law.
- Check their understanding of the concepts and terminology introduced.
- Ask the class to work in pairs and give each pair a copy of all the factsheets about different types of research (medical, veterinary, fundamental and safety testing) and four copies of the worksheet Harm/benefit assessment.
- For each type of research, ask the pairs to complete a worksheet. They can either explain in writing whether they think the benefits outweigh the harms or vice versa, or represent this on a pair of scales, as illustrated on the factsheet Ethics, animal experiments and the law.
- Ask the students to compare their harm/benefit assessments. Did they all agree on any type of research? Which type of research did they have the greatest disagreement about?
- Ask the students to read the factsheet Right or wrong - who decides?.
- Check their understanding of the concepts introduced.
- Set the scene: the class has been invited to host a citizen panel to consider the future of one of the types of research using animals within their country. It is recommended that the focus of the debate should be the type of research that there was most disagreement about.
- Distribute the relevant factsheet on this research or ask the group who made a presentation on this in the Passion or compassion? lesson to do it again. Alternatively, show a video of their presentation.
- Split the class into groups of four or five students by putting those students together who produced similar harm/benefit assessments.
- Ask each group to plan a short presentation summarising their views on the future of the chosen type of research within their country. Encourage students to refer to both facts and ethics.
- Ask each group to give their presentation and, after each one, allow the class to debate the ideas presented.
- Regroup the class so that each group now contains students with differing views.
- Ask each group to produce a written statement that attempts to represent all the views within the group. This statement should begin: 'As students of ________ school we believe the _________ research ...'.
- Ask each group to share their statements and then ask the class to vote for which one they prefer.
- Ask the students to consider the advantages and disadvantages of citizens' panels, using their experience of conducting one within their class.
Learning styles: visual, auditory.
Time for reflection
- Ask the students to reflect on all the concepts introduced during the lesson(s).
- Why does the use of animals in research cause such difficult ethical dilemmas?
Learning styles: auditory.
- For the starter activity, students could work in specific groups according to their ability and be given appropriate questions selected for them in advance.
- Some students may use only one factsheet for the harm/benefit assessment.
- RSPCA - Replacing animals
- RSPCA - All about animals - Laboratory animals
- Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986
- Citizens panel technique
- Every Breath podcast - Y Touring Theatre Company
- Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments
- Home Office - Research and testing using animals
- National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs)
- Nuffield Council on Bioethics
- RSPCA - Campaigns - Revision of EU lab laws