Animal Experimentation: Law, Morality, and Practice
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Animal Experimentation: Law, Morality, and Practice. Research Ethics and Animals. Animal experimentation The moral status of animals Regulation of animal experimentation. Extremists.

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Research Ethics and Animals

  • Animal experimentation

  • The moral status of animals

  • Regulation of animal experimentation

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E.g., Experiments on a monkey’s instinct to cling to its mother even when the mother subjects it to rejection and pain

(Research conducted by Harry Harlow at the Primate Research Centre at Madison, Wisconsin, see Singer 1995, 33-35)

  • (a) Extremist Animal Experimenters

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Extremist animal experimenters (cont)

Other examples:

  • Removing monkey’s eyes to discover whether their facial expressions resembled that of sighted monkeys when deprived of their mothers. They did. (See Gendin 1986, 200)

  • Testing the pressure on a hose when monkeys bit it in response to electric shocks on their tails compared to the biting pressure resulting from amphetamines, etc. (See Gendin 1986, 2001)

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Extremist animal experimenters (cont)

Primate research in Britain, brain research

(videos from the BUAV Website)

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(b) Extremist animal supporters

Rodney Coronado firebombed an animal research lab in Washington State University. He was arrested and convicted. Two years later, scientists resumed work and found AZT.

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Extremist animal supporters (cont)

Barry Horne was convicted after a 2 year firebombing campaign. He detonated his bombs when buildings were closed and caused £3m of damage, including the destruction of the Newport branch of Boots. He died at the end of a hunger strike in November 2001.

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Extremist animal supporters (cont)

  • "We are a lazy, sick society. People bring diseases on themselves. They [people] should avoid getting the disease in the first place." (Dan Matthews, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA))

  • "I could understand anyone who was so angered and troubled by animal abuse that they were driven to take a life.“ (Robin Webb, Animal Liberation Front (ALF))

  • "The life of an ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration” (Michael W. Fox, former vice president of the Humane Society of the United States)

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The purpose of animal experiments

Some examples

  • To test non-pharmaceutical products, e.g., toxicity tests for products ranging from pesticides to deodorants

  • To test pharmaceuticals (in vivo tests), e.g., new drugs and vaccines (stage 2)

  • To investigate animal behaviour, e.g., stress copying mechanisms

  • For educational purposes, e.g., university students

  • For medical purposes, e.g., research on cancer, AIDS, and xenotransplantation

  • Others: e.g., biological research with non-medical aims

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Questions to consider:

  • Why perform animal experiments at all?

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Why perform animal experiments?

  • Necessary to comply with regulatory requirements

  • Some experiments cannot be performed on humans or are better performed on animals

  • Useful (perhaps, necessary) for present & future medical advancements. Utilised for:

    • treatment for rabies (dogs, rabbits); rickets (dogs); leprosy (monkeys, armadillos); etc.

    • prevention of diphtheria (horses); polio (rabbits); rubella (monkeys); measles (monkeys)

    • discovery of insulin (dogs); modern anaesthesia (dogs); DNA (mice & rats)

    • development of laparoscopic surgical techniques (pigs); open heart surgery (dogs); etc.

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Questions to consider:

  • Leaving aside questions of moral justification, what are the limitations of animal experimentation?

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Limitations of animal experimentation

Effect on animals does not always accurately predict the effects on humans

(a) Species differences. E.g., chocolate can be poisonous to dogs (more specifically, theobromine, a compound found in chocolate); cortisone and insulin are deadly to many animals

(b) Some symptoms are hard to discover in animals (e.g., minor aches and pains)

(c) In some cases superior alternatives exists (see below)

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Questions to consider:

  • To what extent are these affected by the use of genetically modified animals?

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Genetically modified animals

There are a number of benefits sought by research using GM animals (see Chapter 6, APC Report on Biotechnology).

E.g., GM modified animals are thought to facilitate or enable the

  • discovery of gene functions;

  • treatment and knowledge of genetic disease;

  • minimisation of rejection following xenotransplantation;

  • improvement in production from farm animals; and

  • development and production of therapeutic protections.

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The 3 R’s

Russel & Burch (1959):

(a)Refinement: minimising animal pain and suffering

(b)Reduction: minimising the number of animals used

E.g., using animals that have been genetically engineered to besusceptible to human conditions

(c)Replacement: avoiding the use of animals in experiments

(i) Relative replacement: experiments that remove non-human animal suffering but not their use. (Absolute refinement)

(ii) Absolute replacement: experiments that do not require biological material derived from animals

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(a) Information (to reduce unnecessary duplication of animal work) (Commercial reality)

(b) Computer-based systems, & mathematical modelling

(c) Physico-chemical techniques; e.g., the commercial test system EYTEX can predict whether a chemical will irritate the eyes, replacing the Draize test

(d) Use of lower organisms (such as bacteria and fungi) and embryos; e.g., the Ames Test

(e) Human studies; e.g., volunteers & population/patient studies

(f) Cell, tissue and organ cultures

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Statistics on Animal Usage under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

  • There was an average fall in the total number of animals used from 1987 to 1999 of about 3% a year, after a rise of about 2% in 2000, there was a 3% fall in 2001

  • In 2001, 2.62 million procedures where performed on 2.57m living animals

    • the vast majority were on rodents (85%);

    • Dogs, cats, horses, and non-human primates were collectively used in less than 1% of procedures

    • the number of GM animals (mostly mice) rose by 8.4% to 631,000

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The Moral Status of Animals Procedures) Act 1986

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Can animals have rights? Procedures) Act 1986

(1)Weak (or Liberty) Right = A has a right to X if A may (it is not wrong) for A to have or do X

(2)Claim-rights impose correlative duties on others

(a) Negative right = imposes a duty of non-interference on others

(b) Positive right = imposes a duty of assistance (to aid) on others

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Can animals have rights? (cont) Procedures) Act 1986

There are two principal conceptions of claim-rights:

(a) benefit/interest conception; and

(b) will/choice conception

  • The difference is that the will/choice theory requires the right-holder to have the capacity to waive the benefit of the right (i.e., be an agent)

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Do animals have moral status? Procedures) Act 1986(= do we have duties of nonharm or protection to animals?)

  • Intrinsic moral status (= moral status possessed by virtue of their characteristics alone)

  • Indirect/vicarious moral status (= moral status derived from the intrinsic moral status of others)

  • Nb. If animals have intrinsic or indirect moral status then we have duties in relation to them

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Intrinsic moral status Procedures) Act 1986(Direct protection)

  • Intrinsic moral status is variously granted to those who are:

    (a) natural systems;

    (b) living creatures;

    (c) sentient: i.e. capable of experiencing pain;

    (d) human;

    (e) agents/persons: i.e. able to act for purposes constituting their reasons for action;

    (f) partial agents, i.e. have some of the characteristics of agents;

    (g) potential agents

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Duties to Animals Under Precaution Procedures) Act 1986

(1)Agents are categorically and unconditionally bound to grant agents (and only agents) full moral status (Kant, Gewirth etc.)

(2)Because being an agent contains inherently subjective qualities, I (an agent) cannot know for certain whether any other being is an agent

(3)However I must treat apparent agents as agents because I violate (1) if I treat an agent as not an agent but do not violate (1) if I treat a non-agent as an agent (Pascal’s Wager leading to Moral Solution to Problem of Other Minds)

(4)Dogs etc. are not apparent agents and cannot be treated as agents. But they could be agents. It follows from (1) that they must be treated as agents to the extent that it is possible to do so (taking into account the conflicting claims of apparent agents/those more capable of being treated as agents)

(5)Thus, apparent non-agents have intrinsic moral status in proportion to the extent that they display (behave as if they have) capacities necessary for agency

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Wholly indirect moral status Procedures) Act 1986(derivative or vicarious protection)


  • Argument from Development of the Virtues (e.g., against Brutalisation)

  • Argument from Protection of Other's Sensitivities

  • Contractual Argument

  • Property Argument

  • Physical Proximity Argument

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UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Procedures) Act 1986

  • Background:

    • Council Directive 86/609/EEC

    • European Convention on the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes 1986 (now amended by the 1998 Protocol)

  • Regulates any experimental or scientific procedure applied to a “protected animal” that might cause the animal “pain, suffering, distress, or lasting harm” (see s.2(1))

  • Such procedures must be performed by a person holding a personal licence, as part of work specified in a project licence, at a place specified in these licences (s.3)

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Protected Animals Procedures) Act 1986

  • S.1(1) “any living vertebrate other than man”

  • Only if (in the case of a mammal, bird, or reptile) it has passed half the gestation or incubation period relevant for the species (s.1(2)(a)), or (in the case of other protected animals) it is capable of independent feeding (s.1(2)(b))

  • The SOS may extend or amend the definition of a protected animal: s.1(3). This has been done to encompass one invertebrate species, the common octopus: Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (Amendment) Order 1993/2103

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Genetically modified animals Procedures) Act 1986

  • S.2(3): “Anything done for the purpose of, or liable to result in, the birth or hatching of a protected animal is also a regulated procedure” if it might cause the animal pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm

  • Thus, the production, breeding, and use of transgenic animals for scientific purposes is regulated (such as the creation of Dolly the sheep)

  • HL Select Committee Report 2002 recommended that all GM animals that are bred but not otherwise used in a regulated procedure should be excluded from the annual statistics

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Personal licences Procedures) Act 1986

  • Granted subject to certain conditions and reviewable every 5 years (s.4)

  • Personal licence holders must seek to prevent or minimise any pain, distress, or discomfort to the animals (s.10)

  • HL Select Committee recommended that visiting scientists and students in higher education should be able to carry out work under the licences of an established licence-holder. The Government has rejected this

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Project Licences (cont) Procedures) Act 1986

  • S.5(3): A project licence can only be granted for

    (a) the prevention or the diagnosis or treatment of disease, ill-health, or abnormality, or their effects, in man, animals, or plants;

    (b) the assessment, detection, regulation or modification of physiological conditions in man, animals, or plants;

    (c) the protection of the natural environment in the interests of the health or welfare of man or animals;

    (d) the advancement of knowledge in biological or behavioural sciences;

    (e) education or training otherwise than in primary or secondary schools;

    (f) forensic enquiries; and/or

    (g) the breeding of animals for experimental or other scientific use

  • The applicant must have given adequate consideration to the feasibility of using an alternative to the use of protected animals: s.5(5)

  • Cats, dogs, and primates cannot be used unless no other species is suitable or practically available: s.5(6)

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Project Licences (cont) Procedures) Act 1986

  • Before granting the SOS must weigh the costs against the benefits : “the SOS shall weigh the likely adverse effects [pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm] on animals concerned against the benefit likely to accrue as a result of the programme to be specified in the licence”: s.5(4)

  • Home Office Guidance

    (a) state that this assessment should take account of the “maximum severity expected to be experienced by any animal,” &

    (b) outline a number of categories are outlined to facilitate evaluation of the level of severity

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Project Licences (cont) Procedures) Act 1986

Categories of severity

• “Mild” severity procedures range from the taking of small or infrequent blood samples to minor surgical procedures under anaesthesia such as laparoscopy. (Unless there is significant combination or repetition on the same animal)

• “Moderate” severity procedures include most surgical procedures, and toxicity tests avoiding lethal endpoints

• “Substantial” severity procedures result in “a major departure from the animal’s usual state of health and well-being”. Examples are given.

• “Unclassified” severity procedures are performed under non-recovery, general anaesthetic or on decerebrate animals

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Categories of Benefit referred to by the Animals Scientific Procedures Committee

  • “Human, animal, and ecological benefits” (such as improved health or welfare, plant production, food hygiene, safeguarding the environment)

  • “Scientific benefits” (such as resolution of controversies, increasing scientific knowledge)

  • “Education benefits” (such as meeting educational objectives which cannot be satisfied by using non-animal methods)

  • “Economic benefits” (such as profitability, employment, conservation of natural resources)

  • “Other benefits” (such as forensic enquiries)

  • No criterion for weighing these benefits corresponding to the severity weightings is offered by the Act, the Guidance, or the Animal Procedures Committee Reports

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Re-use of animals Procedures Committee

  • s.14(1) Bans any re-use of an animal after a series of regulated procedures for a purpose involved a general anaesthetic and recovery of consciousness, except where permitted under s.14(2)

  • S.14(3) bans any re-use without permission after a series of regulated procedures which did not involve general anaesthesia

  • Thus, all re-use must be authorised in advance. However, using the same animal in a series of regulated procedures for a particular purpose is not re-use!

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Animal Procedures Committee Procedures CommitteeReport on Biotechnology (June 2001)

  • Recommend that no licences be issued for

    (a) “trivial objectives, such as the creation or duplication of favourite pets, or of animals intended as toys, fashion accessories, or the like” (Rec. 1)

    (b) work expected to produce GM animals that would suffer severe or lasting illness, unless the problems could be handled humanely through specialist care (Rec. 2)

    (c) genetically modifying animals with the intention of “stripping animals of the biological integrity” or “rendering them incurably insentient” (Rec. 4)

    (d) the production of embryo aggregation chimeras or hybrids that “involve a significant degree of hybridisation between animals of very dissimilar kinds” (Rec. 5)

    (e) the genetic modification of Great Apes

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HL Select Committee Report & Response Procedures Committee

  • HL Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures (July 2002):

    • It is morally acceptable to use animals but morally wrong to cause them unnecessary or avoidable suffering (conclusion 1)

    • Emphasises the 3R’s (particularly Conclusions 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, & 13)

  • Government Response