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New Hastings Web site: Ethics of Medical Research with Animals

The scientific and ethical debate over the use of animals in medical research has raged for years, but  perspectives are shifting, viewpoints are becoming more nuanced, and new initiatives are seeking alternatives to animal testing, according to a special report by The Hastings Center, “Animal Research Ethics: Evolving Views and Practices.” The report is available on animalresearch.thehastingscenter.org, a hub of educational information on the changing landscape of scientific, ethical, and policy issues on animal research.  

These resources are the outcome of a project on the ethics of medical research with animals, which brought together people with different points of view and areas of expertise to share their knowledge and exchange ideas and insights. Participants included veterinarians, a neuroscientist studying Parkinson’s disease, a legal scholar, bioethicists, and animal welfare advocates.

“Our goal was to produce educational resources for a wide audience, including biomedical researchers, scholars, students, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, policymakers, and journalists who follow animal research issues,” says Gregory Kaebnick, a Hastings Center research scholar and one of the leaders of the project. In addition to Kaebnick, the project was led by Susan Gilbert, public affairs and communications manager, and Thomas Murray, senior research scholar and President Emeritus. It was supported with a grant from The Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Fund.

The special report, published with the Hastings Center Report, contains commentaries from the participants that cite examples of changes under way that are improving the welfare of animals in research and in some cases replacing them with alternative models. Examples include recent restrictions on the use of chimpanzees in federally-funded research and a “paradigm shift” in toxicology testing that aims to replace animals with a process that uses human cells to study a chemical’s “pathway of toxicity.”

Other commentaries suggest opportunities for change, including ways that laws that govern animal experimentation can be amended to reduce unnecessary animal suffering and actions that researchers can take to reduce the number of animals needed for proposed experiments.

Additional resources can be found on the Hastings animal research Web site, including statistics on the use of different animal species, alternative research models, links to other significant reports on animal research issues, animal studies programs, a selected and updated bibliography, and an interactive glossary of terms used in debates about using animals in research that can have multiple meanings – including the word “alternative.” In the interest of fostering clear and civil discussion of the ethical controversies, The Hastings Center invites visitors to offer suggestions on the further development of the glossary terms and definitions.

Authors of the special report are: Larry Carbone, a veterinarian specializing in the care of laboratory animals; Kathleen M. Conlee, vice president for animal research issues with The Humane Society of the United States; Jeffrey Kahn,  the Robert Henry Levi and Ryda Hecht Levi Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy in the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics; Susan Kopp, a veterinarian and professor of health sciences in the veterinary technology program at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York, and a scholar at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics; Stephen R. Latham, direct orof the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University; Joel Marks, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of New Haven and co-director of the animal ethics study group at Yale; D. Eugene Redmond, Jr., professor of psychiatry and neurosurgery at the Yale University School of Medicine; Bernard E. Rollin, university distinguished professor, professor of philosophy, animal sciences, and biomedical sciences, and university bioethicist at Colorado State University; Andrew N. Rowan, chief scientific officer at The Humane Society of the United States and chief executive officer of The Humane Society International; and Joanne Zurlo, senior scientist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and director of science strategy for the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.