The ethics of research involving animals


Published 24/05/2005

Animal research report cover hugh res
Mouse cages from Understanding Animal Research library

Research involving animals has been the subject of intense debate in the UK and elsewhere. Too often this debate is presented in a polarised manner, differentiating only between those ‘for’ or those ‘against’ all research involving animals. This is overly simplistic.

There is in fact a continuum of views between these two ends of the spectrum. In 2005, the Council published a report which seeks to clarify the debate and aims to help people think through the scientific and ethical issues that are raised. It also makes practical recommendations for future policy and practice.

The report was produced by a Working Party comprised of academic and industry scientists, philosophers, members of animal protection groups, and a lawyer.

Use of the term ‘animal’

Strictly speaking, it would be more appropriate to use the terms

‘human animals’ and ‘non-human animals’ to distinguish between humans and other animals. However, for reasons of brevity, we use the term ‘animals’ to refer to ‘non-human animals’ in this report.

This use should not be taken to imply differences between humans and animals in their ability to suffer or feel pain to an extent that sets humans apart from all other species. Neither should it be taken to imply differences in moral status.