While the fundamental ethical issues arising in animal research are the same regardless of the country in which it is performed, considering such research in the global context does highlight a few speciﬁc ethical issues concerning its practice and regulation.
For clariﬁcation, “research” and “experimentation” will be used interchangeably in this entry, as will “moral” and “ethical.” Because an individual must be conscious in order to have morally relevant interests (i.e., to care about what happens to it) (Singer 2002), this analysis will focus on research using sentient (i.e., conscious) nonhuman animals, which would include almost all animal species used in research.
While animals in research are often killed because the experiment requires it (e.g., because tissues are needed for postmortem examination) or because the animals are simply no longer needed, some animals are killed because the experiment involves the inﬂiction of harm causing intractable suffering.
For this subgroup of animals, it should not be assumed that because their death releases them from suffering, it is therefore not harmful.
Death is usually a harm because it takes away from the animal future opportunities to satisfy interests.
Thus, whatever pleasures, satisﬁed desires, or other goods the animal might have experienced in the future will be prevented when it is killed (De Grazia 2002).Over the past 100 years, scientiﬁc research using animals has expanded greatly in scope and complexity and now occupies a central place as an investigative tool in biomedicine.Animals are used in basic research to generate fundamental knowledge about biological processes; in preclinical research to test the safety, efﬁcacy, and quality of drugs, biologics, and medical devices; in toxicologic research to test the safety of industrial and consumer products; in research training and education; and in other areas.As concerns humans, while there are sometimes exceptions to this principle (e.g., harms in self-defense), nonmaleﬁcence is generally acknowledged as a strict principle, with exceptions being very limited.For present purposes, it should be emphasized that scientiﬁc research is not typically regarded as a legitimate exception, and acceptable risk or harm in humansubjects research (particularly non-beneﬁcial research) is very limited.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.Thus, when one considers animal research in actual practice in regulation, it is clear that significant reform is necessary in order to bring regulation and practice in line with any reasonable moral view about what animals are owed.While the use of animals in science has a long history, it expanded greatly in scope over the past century, with at least 100 million animals now used each year globally (Taylor et al. Animals are used to generate basic knowledge about biology; to test the safety, efﬁcacy, and quality of drugs, biologics, and medical devices; to test the safety of industrial and consumer products; in research training and education; and in other areas (Taylor et al. The evolution of protections for consumers and human participants in research has resulted in a situation where animal testing is often legally required prior to testing in humans and is often thought to be an ethical mandate as well.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.