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et’s put it straight from the very beginning: no living,

ordinary person could be enthusiastic about using animals

for research and making them suffer in the laboratories of

the world to advance medicine. But the serious researchers

among us know that we cannot find new insights and new

therapies for humans and animals without using them, and this is

for several reasons. Among them are basic insights to studying

disease mechanisms and thereby understanding where the chain

of events is broken in cases of pathology. Cell and organ cultures

can tell us a lot and are widely used, however, they cannot explain

everything. For this, living organisms are too complex to just be

quickly mimicked in cell culture wells or bioreactors. Therefore,

animal experiments cannot be avoided, since on the other side of

the coin weighs the suffering of both human and animal patients

desperately awaiting cures for their diseases.

Although we divide research into basic and applied research, in

reality these borders are not so clear and distinguishable – it’s a

transient business. How can we find good strategies for

therapeutic regimens if we don’t know where to intervene? To give

you a sample: millions of animals give their lives to study cartilage

resurfacing with very limited success and why? Certainly hyaline

cartilage is a tricky thing to repair to start with. However, one of the

main reasons is that nobody has yet found out what the normal

regeneration and repair mechanisms of hyaline cartilage are, and

how this is connected to the underlying subchondral bone.

Granted, this is difficult to find out, but if we can’t understand this

fundamental physiology of our joints, there is little hope that we

will ever be able to regenerate new cartilage after a defect

occurred on the surface. This is true for humans and animals.

Dogs and horses have a lot of joint problems and wait for new

therapy strategies as humans do. For horses this is one of the

most common reasons to be euthanised or slaughtered. This

shows impressively that animal experiments are not just for

humans but also for animals – to save their lives.

Ethics and philosophy

The ethical and philosophical aspects of why animal experiments

can be justified in science are widely discussed and are not the

focus of this essay. There is also the issue of the famous ‘three Rs’

(3Rs), which stand for Reduce, Replace and Refine, leading to

more conscious use of animals in research, and this issue is

mainly left to the philosophers. One of the main problems,

however, is very often neglected, but is instrumental for animals in

research and directly connected to the individual animal’s

wellbeing or suffering. It’s about the quality of how animal

experiments are conducted and who conducts them. Some

aspects are covered by legislations within the different countries.

They are mainly related to infrastructure and environment of

animal facilities. It also includes personnel with their training and

very rudimentary documentations.

Most of the FELASA accredited laboratories nowadays include

veterinarians for staff members. However, these are often not

veterinary specialists for either small rodent facilities or large

animal surgery, respectively anaesthesia. Nowadays, this should

be unacceptable in all laboratories. It should be required by law

that veterinary specialists with Board Certifications of the

European or American Colleges of Laboratory Animals

(ECLAM/ACLAM) are leaders of such facilities. It should also be

the law that specialists of the European or American Veterinary

Colleges of surgery (ECVS/ACVS) and of anaesthesia and

analgesia (ECVAA/ACVAA) must be involved in every single

surgery for experiments with larger animals like sheep, goats, pigs,

calves, heifers, dogs and cats or primates.

Medical doctors, biologists or other basic scientists should not be

allowed to be alone at the table in future when surgeries on these

animals are conducted. Surgeries should only be permitted in

The ethics of animal testing should be a consideration that is woven into the

everyday business of researchers

Everyday ethical considerations



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