Medical Education Governance in India

Ethical Animal Research: Prospects and Challenges


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Ethical issues in animal research


A proposed measure in Switzerland would have made that country the first to ban medical and scientific experimentation on animals.

What counts as ‘Ethical’ animal research?

  • There is no single standard definition of ethical animal research.
  • Ethical animal research refers to the use of animals in scientific studies while ensuring that the animals are treated humanely and their welfare is protected.
  • It involves balancing the benefits of the research with the potential harm to the animals and minimizing any harm or suffering that the animals may experience.

Issues involved in animal research

  • Inhumane treatment: Animals are often not treated humanely and are mishandled throughout the research process, including during transport, housing, and experimental procedures.
  • Animal rights ignored: Animal rights advocates argue that animals have inherent rights and should not be used for human purposes. They argue that animals have the right to life, liberty, and freedom from suffering, and that using animals in research violates these rights.
  • Animal distress: We should consider animals’ distress. If something is known to be painful in humans, it is assumed to be painful in animals as well.

The 4 R’s of animal research

The 3 R’s encourage scientists to develop new techniques that allow them to replace animals with appropriate alternatives.  The principles are summarized as:

  1. Reduction
  2. Refinement
  3. Replacement
  4. Rehabilitation

Guidelines for animal research

Federal research agencies follow guiding principles in evaluating the use and care of animals in research.

  • Empathy for all: One is that the research must increase knowledge and, either directly or indirectly, have the potential to benefit the health and welfare of humans and other animals.
  • Minimal use: Another is that only the minimum number of animals required to obtain valid results should be included.
  • Minimise pain and distress: Researchers must use procedures that minimize pain and distress and maximise the animals’ welfare.
  • Using IT tools: They are also asked to consider whether they could use non-animal alternatives instead, such as mathematical models or computer simulations.

Significance of such guidelines

Ans. Defined protocol

  • They have made sure that scientists create protocols that describe the purpose of their research and why animals are necessary to answer meaningful question.
  • The protocol must outline how animals will be housed and cared for, and who will care for and work with the animals, to ensure that they are trained to treat animals humanely.

Why is animal research essential?

  • Non-invasive study: Animal research benefits both humans and animals. Numerous medical advances exist because they were initially studied in animals.
  • Benefits entire wildlife: Animal research has allowed for the eradication of certain diseases in cattle, for example, leading not only to reduced farm cattle deaths and human famine, but also to improved health for wild cattle.
  • Veterinarian care: Health care advances for pets – including cancer treatments, effective vaccines, nutritional prescription diets and flea and tick treatments – are also available thanks to animal research.

Way forward

  • Specific guidelines for ethical animal research are typically established by national governments.
  • Independent organisations also provide research standards.
  • Create Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.


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