In this issue

Ethics of basic animal research

Presented are highlights of the results of a poll sent to the Div. 6 Listserv about tips on how to approach the ethics of basic animal research to the general public.
  • Ethics of animal research is a complex topic without a simple answer. “Animal welfare” is not a singular issue, but rather a continuous concern that requires consideration for every study. Not all animal research involves harm, pain, caging, food deprivation or other objectionable practices. Ironically, we often depend on scientific research with animals to determine how objectionable such a practice is! It is vitally important for students to become critical and analytical thinkers to rationally evaluate the costs and benefits of any particular study.
  • Often the general public is unaware of the animal welfare protection systems in place, such as OLAW, USDA, IACUCs or other ethics boards.
  • Animal research benefits animals as well as humans. Foundational work with animals leads to unexpected outcomes, such as the work with oxytocin in voles, which led to novel treatments for autism. It helps conservation efforts – for example, conditioned taste aversion to prevent wolves from killing livestock. It enhances the welfare of wild and captive animals, such as improvements in zoo animal habitats, or treatment of diseases shared with humans, like Ebola.
  • Students underestimate the profound impact of mental health disorders on individuals as well as families and society. There is a profound impact in terms of both economics and human well-being.
  • Criticism of behavioral studies in particular hints at anti-psychology sentiments. At least on the surface, it appears studies that are more biomedical in nature (e.g., drug development) are more palatable than those that are purely behavioral. However, behavioral treatments can be equally effective and carry lower risks.
  • The APA’s Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE) has resources on this issue and is working hard to educate the public, not to mention the speaking of research website.

The responses were many and varied; thank you all for the great discussion.