On the basis of available information, however, it is clear that most animal research harms animals to a signiﬁcant degree, involving suffering, conﬁnement, and death.
Philosophical work in animal ethics conducted over the past 40 years has cast signiﬁcant doubt upon the ethical defensibility of much and perhaps all harmful animal research.
While some progress has been made in developing alternatives to live animal use in scientiﬁc research, members of the biomedical community often assert that animal research is both responsible for most past medical progress and equally necessary for future progress (see, e.g., Knight 2011, p. Animal research raises ethical concern principally because of the harm it usually causes to animals.
While strict regulations in most (if not all) countries protect human participants in research from signiﬁcant risk or harm – especially as concerns research not directly beneﬁting the participant – regulations governing animal research are much more permissive by comparison.
Today, at least 100 million animals are used in research each year worldwide, though this might represent a signiﬁcant underestimate.
A review of published statistics indicates that much important information about the nature of animal use in research is unavailable, and this itself is a signiﬁcant ethical problem.However, the fact that sentient animals have interests means that they are plausible candidates to be covered by a principle of nonmaleﬁcence; what we do to animals matters to them.The general importance of nonmaleﬁcence in morality, coupled with the fact that research often harms animals, entails that such research requires justiﬁcation; it establishes animal research as a moral issue requiring discussion.At present, a robust literature on animal ethics exists, with at least 1,500 books having been published and multiple journals specializing in this area (Akhtar 2012).This essay will provide an overview of animal research ethics, with an eye toward the global context.Thus the moral legitimacy of harmful animal research cannot simply be taken for granted: if harms to animals are thought to be more permissible than harms to humans, some compelling reason(s) must be provided to substantiate this judgment.De Grazia (2002) has helpfully delineated three categories of harm to animals that apply across many types of animal use, including research.The moral relevance of harm to animals in research derives from the relevance of harm to morality more generally.Essentially all ethical theories, as well as common morality, embrace a principle of nonmaleﬁcence, which holds that we ought not to harm others (harm being generally deﬁned as setting back another’s interests or making them worse off).Rather, they are harmed by their death as compared to how they would have fared had humans not caused the harm of intractable suffering, which is what makes the release of death seem “merciful” (some philosophers describe this as “subjunctive harm”).This point has important implications for research.