Ethical issues and non-human animals


Ethics and Animals

We can see many ethical problems involving animals.

One example is Harlow's monkey which he used to show how children need love. 

This study was too unethical to be done on humans as it involved depriving the monkey's of their mothers. 

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Improving Human Health

Animals are often used in addition in addition studies, which involve getting the animals addicted to something and then trying to get them un-addicted. 

As a result of this aniamls experience pain and suffering, but it's done so that humans can safely take psychoactive drugs and have happy lives without hurting any members of the public. 

Similariliy, Selye carried out unethical research on rats (cutting into their spine, exposing them to extreme temperatures etc...) which helped us understand how stress effects the heath of humans. 

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Benefits and Negatives of Using Animals


  • Studying animals is interesting, and sometimes they do actually benefit from the research (Dian Fossy) 
  • We also gain increased control such as in Blakemore and Cooper's study when they studied sensory deprivation on cats by locking them in a darkened room. 


  • We often generalise results acorss species, so in Blakemore and Cooper we generalised that we all have a similar visual cortex, which could be incorrect particulariliy because the information was gained from non human animals. 
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Opinions on Using Animals

  • Some people claim that animals should not be used in research because they are sentient beings, that is, they can experience pain and emotion. However it is argued that this is not the same as having conscious awareness
  • According to the Libson Treaty 2009, all animals are sentient. 
  • There are many moral objections to using animals and the term 'speciesism' refers to the fact that we shouldn't do anything on animals that we wouldn't do to ourselves. 
  • People justify it by saying that many people will benefit from scientific research but regan states that in circumstances can we justify animal suffering.
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Legislation and Guidelines

We do have legislation in place, like the Animal Procedures Act (1986), which states that in order to obtain a licence for animals reseach you must...

  • justify potentcial results
  • show that animals are necessary
  • carry out cost-benefit analysis
  • ensure a minimal number of animals are used

BPS guildelines also insist that for all research to be ethical it must...

  • Confirm to legislation
  • heed the three R's (Replace, Reduce, Refine). 
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Effectiveness of Legislation

Dunayer says that legisation merely sets standards for enslavement, imprisonment and killing of animals.

An investigation of 271 studies in the US and UK showed that the number of animals are only mentioned in 59% of studies, suggesting that people often try to hide how many animals they've used for research. 

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Whether animals should be used in research has gained a large amount of differing opinions.

Often we abide by the rule that if the scientific gain of the research is highter than the ethical costs then it's okay to use non-human animals in research. 

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