The Ethics of Animal Research
Animal Testing • Previously we looked at the use of animals in spaceflight to further our understanding of the space environment. • The use of animals in scientific testing has always been, and will continue to be a controversial subject.
Animal Testing • While controversial, it is an unavoidable fact that animal research has allowed the development of medicines and vaccines, surgical techniques and advanced scientific understanding in many areas.
Animal Testing • It is estimated that between 50 and 100 million animals are used in research each year. • Some are purpose bred for testing but many are still caught in the wild.
Measuring Pain and Suffering in Animal Testing • The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a painful procedure as one that would “reasonably be expected to cause more than slight or momentary pain or distress in a human being to which the procedure was applied” • Do you think this is a valid way to measure suffering in animal tests?
Measuring Pain and Suffering in Animal Testing • In the UK experiments are classified as mild, moderate or substantial in the amount of suffering they cause an animal. • A fourth category of unclassified is used when the animal is anaesthetized but killed before regaining consciousness.
Measuring Pain and Suffering in Animal Testing • In December 2001 the breakdown of experimental licenses was: • 39% mild • 55% moderate • 2% substantial • 4% unclassified • Does this seem a reasonable breakdown to you?
Is Animal Testing Morally Right? • The argument between pro-animal testing parties and opponents to animal testing hinges on whether it is ethical.
Is Animal Testing Morally Right? • Advocates for animal testing say: • Human life has greater intrinsic value than animal life • Legislation protects all lab animals from cruelty or mistreatment • Millions of animals are killed every year for food, is medical research not a more worthy death • Few animals feel pain and are killed before they suffer
Is Animal Testing Morally Right? • Opponents to animal testing say: • Animals have as much right to live as humans • Strict controls have not prevented some animals being abused, though such instances are rare • Deaths for research are unnecessary • Animals suffer while they are locked up and how do we know when they do and don’t feel pain
The Three R’s • The guiding principles for the use of animals in research are the three R’s: • Replacement: Use alternative, non-animal methods to achieve the same scientific aim • Reduction: Use statistical methods so that a smaller number of animals are required • Refinement: Improve the experiments so that animals do not suffer
Ethical Dilemmas • British law requires that any new medicinal drug to be used on humans must undergo a substantial testing program including testing on at least two different species of live mammal. • One of which must be a large non-rodent. • This of course means that any company wanting to release a medical drug must, by law, undertake animal testing regardless of how they fell about it ethically.
Ethical Dilemmas • Animal researchers say it will be impossible to eliminate all animal tests but scientists are always working on ways to minimise the suffering of animals and to ensure as few animals as possible will be required.
Case Study: Laika • Laika, a mixed bred dog ‘recruited’ into the Soviet space program after being found on the streets of Moscow. • Laika’s mission would make her the first creature to orbit the Earth in an attempt to study the prolonged effect of weightlessness on a living being.
Case Study: Laika • Laika was 3 years old when she was launched on the Sputnik 2 spacecraft on November 3rd, 1957. • She was secured in a special pressurised capsule 3 days before launch and provided with a high nutrition gel for food and water.
Case Study: Laika • Laika experienced minimal ill effects during launch but her heart rate did rise to three times its resting rate and she appeared to be quite agitated, eventually calming down. • It appeared that weightlessness alone did not cause major changes to the vital physiological functions of a living creature. • This was good news for human spaceflight.
Case Study: Laika • Cabin temperature begun rapidly climbing to unacceptably high levels. • Temperature control inside the capsule was failing. • Between 5 and 7 hours into the flight telemetry showed that there were no signs of life within the capsule. • Laika had died from stress and overheating, undoubtedly a painful and distressing death.
Case Study: Laika • As the world began to learn of the second Sputnik, no word of Laika’s death was released. • The Sputnik 2 capsule that carried Laika into orbit was not retrievable and it had been intended that Laika would die in orbit. • But at the time the world believed that Laika may be recovered.
Case Study: Laika • Protests from animal protection groups began around the world. • On November 5th a newspaper article in the New York Times included a report from an unnamed Russian scientists that the dog could not live much longer. • Other articles talked about the importance of the information being learned by sending an animal into space.
Case Study: Laika • On November 7th Soviet scientists were still claiming that Laika was in good health when she had in fact been dead for four days. • Eventually the truth of the dog’s fate emerged and on November 11th the Soviets confirmed that Laika was dead. • The exact cause of Laika’s death remained a mystery for decades.
Case Study: Laika • The truth was not confirmed until 2002 when Russian scientists confirmed that Laika had died between 5 and 7 hours after launch due to heat and stress. • Russian scientist Oleg Gazenko who worked on the Soviet Space Program stated that “the more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough to justify the death of dog.”
Case Study: Laika • Laika became a hero to the Soviet people and captured the imagination of the world. • Her flight immediately proved the near term capability for human spaceflight.
Case Study: Laika • The question of whether the sacrifice of Laika was justified for the progress of space technology is still debateable in the context of ethics of animal research. • Could the flight have been postponed until recovery of the capsule was possible? • The political climate and the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the “Space Race” meant that the ethical considerations of the mission were not properly considered.
Case Study Discussion • Do you think the mission was justified? • How could the experiment have been improved? • Was the outcome of putting the first man in space a valid aim for sacrificing Laika? • Did the fact that the Russian scientists covered up Laika’s death make the experiment more unethical?