Animal Experiments: A Research of Ethics

Using Animals as Test Subjects in Research

Non-human animals are used as test subjects in a variety of research activities. In this situation, the animals are put to studies or altered in order to learn more about physiological reactions or to test for medication potential in treating a human condition. This is because animals and humans share so many genetic and psychological similarities that their responses can be cautiously generalized to humans. Notwithstanding the enormous potential that animals have for furthering medical research, there are concerns regarding the ethics of putting animals to harsh scientific techniques that would be deemed unethical for people because they are used as tools to advance knowledge. Understandably, animals should enjoy ethical protection that include being free from suffering and pain while living a full life. Still, it must be accepted that animal models are an irreplaceable scientific resource whose absence would curtail advances in medical science (Comstock, 2013). As a result, the ethical justification for using animals in scientific experiments is subject to debate.

Arguments Against Animal Use in Experiments

Arguments against animals use center on their moral status. As living things capable of higher thought processes, it is not wrong to accept that animals have an established moral status that would be violated by either needlessly hurting or abusing them. The moral status also comes from their capacity to enjoy life and suffer from harm. In respect to this capacity, animals are no different from humans since they can experience pleasure and feel pain. This implies that they deserve to be treated equally and enjoy comparable moral status. The implication is that any attempt to disregard animals’ moral status can be considered as species prejudice. As humans, we do not have the right to consider experimental animals of a different species as less morally significant and being of lower moral status (Paul, E. & Paul, J., 2001). In this respect, ethical arguments against animals use in experiments revolve around moral status and significance.

Arguments for Animal Use in Experiments

On the other hand, arguments for animals use in experiments reject the moral reasoning. For an individual to enjoy moral significance, he or she must share certain traits with the rest of the community. These traits revolve around responsibilities towards other community members that are then assumed as rights. For instance, people living in human communities are expected to live independent lives and be autonomous in their decisions while extending the responsibility of respect for independence to other members of the same community. This is what defines a moral community. Although it can be theoretically argued that an animal can become a member of a moral community that includes humans, the reality is to the contrary. Animals lack personal autonomy and cannot manipulate abstract concepts. In fact, their cognitive capabilities are inferior to those of humans thus making them non-autonomous and unable to pursue specific life goals. Given that animals do not enjoy the same moral status as humans, then it stands to reason that using them in ways that benefit humans would always trump over questions about ethics (Comstock, 2013).

Finding a Middle Ground

Although the question of ethics in using animals for experiments raises morality concerns, there are measures that can be taken to arrive at a middle ground. This should include improving laboratory conditions so that experiment animals are handled by well-trained personnel, are treated humanely, and live in good conditions (Saraf & Kumaraswamy, 2013). Overall, it must be accepted that animals cannot enjoy the same moral status as humans since their cognitive capacities are inferior (Premack, 2007). As such, experiments that use animals should not be subjected to the same ethical reviews as those that use humans.


Comstock, G. (2013). Research Ethics: A Philosophical Guide to the Responsible Conduct of Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Paul, E. & Paul, J. (2001). Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Premack, D. (2007). Human and animal cognition: Continuity and discontinuity. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, 104(35), 13861-13867.

Saraf, S., & Kumaraswamy, V. (2013). Basic research: Issues with animal experimentations. Indian Journal Of Orthopaedics, 47(1), 6.

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