University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Animals in research

Opposing views

There are many arguments in favour of using animals in medical and other research experiments however those who oppose animal experimentation have presented a variety of counter arguments.

The following table summarises some of the arguments and counter arguments that have been used by each of these groups:

“Biomedical” Lobby “Animal Rights” Lobby

Human life is intrinsically more morally valuable than animal life: we are more important than them.

All sentient animals have equal moral worth: their lives are as valuable as ours.

All mammals have the same organs performing the same functions and controlled by the same mechanisms, via hormones or the nervous system. Animal hormones have been used successfully in humans.

Significant species differences mean that it is impossible to extrapolate with any certainty the results of animal experiments to the human situation.

Whilst non-animal methods such as tissue culture, computer modelling, studies of patients and populations are widely used they do not provide enough information to ensure human safety.

Alternatives such as tissue culture, epidemiological studies and computer models can be used instead of testing on animals.

All experiments must be approved by Home Office Inspectors, who are doctors and vets with the knowledge and experience to weigh any distress involved in an experiment against the potential benefit for science and for humanity.

Pictures of animals in experiments are taken as clear evidence of cruelty.

Research Ethics Committees of funding bodies are rigorous in their consideration of animal welfare and scientists’ rationale for the research when deciding where to deploy their limited monies.

Much research using live animals is thought to be trivial.


Consider these arguments in turn, which do you find most convincing? Is that because you feel strong emotions about it or because you thought it through logically? What evidence can you find to support it?

Task: Visit the  RDS's website and follow the links through “animal research facts” to “numbers of animals” and study the graph showing numbers of animal experiments and procedures over recent years from 1960. Look closely at the graph.

Now visit the website of the  British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), and download the pdf factsheet file "UK Legislation: a Criticism", and carefully study the graph of numbers of animal procedures from 1990-2003.

Now compare these two resources, how does the way the data are displayed and the accompanying text affect your perception of their message?

Netx: Animals as recreation


What's your opinion?

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NOT RATED mancy 17-05-08 17:14
i would support a utilitarian framework where the overall benefit of using animals is greater than the harm caused. e.g a woman with breast cancer surely suffers more than each mice, and with her, her relatives have to suffer emotional pain.
NOT RATED 05-10-16 13:43
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Try this poll AFTER you have read this whole topic


Are you now?
In favour of all scientific research with animals
In favour only of medical research with animals
Against all research with animals

Has your answer changed since the first poll? Take 5 minutes to write down the reasons why you have or have not changed your answer. Use the sources you have read and viewed to explain your answer.