021. Animal experimentation

A discussion testing the limitations of our testing limitations


Essays of possible interest

  1. Does animal experimentation inform human healthcare?
  2. Animal testing is still the best way to find new treatments for patients
  3. Alternatives to animal testing
  4. Ethical principles and guidelines for experiments on animals
  5. The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation


Questions to ponder

  1. Would you personally ever participate in experiments involving animals? To what extent and why?


  1. Do we “own” animals? Can we do to animals anything that we can do to other “property” we own (e.g., a chair, a pencil, a burrito, etc.)?


  1. For many people “pain” and “suffering” mark the bounds of “acceptable research”. Why should these be the bounds and how much of a buffer ought we to keep between them and ourselves?


  1. Are we more (un)comfortable with certain kinds of animal experimentation? Why? Is there something to the notion of “higher” animals? Or is that just something we as ideal versions of said “higher” animals made up? To what extent does/should genetic relatedness play a role in our ethical understanding of a particular animal model?


  1. A strategy of “3 Rs” (reduction, refinement, and replacement) is currently applied for laboratory use of animals. Is there anything about this approach that you would revise?


  1. Roberts et al. note that “it is essential that [our] results are valid and precise. Biased or imprecise results from animal experiments may result in clinical trials of biologically inert or even harmful substances, thus exposing patients to unnecessary risk and wasting scarce research resources.” Do you believe this is an appropriate dimension by which to measure / lens through which to observe the heart of the matter when it comes to animal experimentation?


  1. This weekend a great many dead bird will be eaten around this country (and indeed around the world). Would the world be “better” if it collectively ate less or more of these birds?


  1. Garattini and Grignaschi claim that “There is no magic recipe” to improving our (animal) experiments, “only trial and error.” Are they right?


  1. Ahktar forcefully states that “[t]he unreliability of animal experimentation across a wide range of areas undermines scientific arguments in favor of the practice [and] often significantly harms humans through misleading safety studies, potential abandonment of effective therapeutics, and direction of resources away from more effective testing methods. The resulting evidence suggests that the collective harms and costs to humans from animal experimentation outweigh potential benefits and that resources would be better invested in developing human-based testing methods.” Is she right?


  1. Section 4.5 of the Ethical Principles and Guidelines for Experiments on Animals from the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and Swiss Academy of Sciences says that “animal[s] must be able to express [their] sensations” to “where possible avoid painful sensations.” If animals could express their sensations with us, do you think they would be satisfied with our treatment of them? How could we improve interspecies relations?


  1. Myriad forms of vegetarianism seem to be cropping up across the country. Why is that?


  1. To what degree are we responsible for animals?


  1. How can we do better?