Ethics of Animal Use

This issues of animals and ethics and the use of animals in biomedical research are ones that are important for all researchers and personnel who use animals to take some time to think about. It is not the intent of the IACUC to tell you how you should feel about this topic; however, it is important that information be available to the research and animal care community so that each individual can explore these topics.
In 1996, NASA published an influential document titled “NASA Principles for the Ethical Care and Use of Animals”.  It was intended to guide careful and considered discussion of the ethical challenges that arise in the course of animal research under NASA’s auspices, but it is helpful to animal use in general.  Briefly stated, the document states that a strong allegiance to the principles of bioethics is vital to responsible research practices and that vertebrate animals warrant moral concern.  The use of animals in research involves responsibility – not only for the stewardship of the animals, but to the scientific community and society as well.  The three basic principles of the document include:
  1. Respect for Life.  This principle requires that animals used n research should be of an appropriate species and health status and should involve the minimum number required to obtain valid scientific results.  It also recognizes that the use of different species may raise different ethical concerns.
  2. Societal Benefit.  This principle entails that where animals are used, the assessment of the overall ethical value of such use should include consideration of the full range of potential societal good, the populations affected, and the burdens that are expected to be borne by the subjects of the research.
  3. Non-maleficence.  This principle entails that the minimization of distress, pain, and suffering is a moral imperative.  Unless the contrary is established, investigators should consider that procedures that cause pain or distress in humans may cause pain or distress in other sentient animals.