The Lack of Ethics in Animal Ethics Committees

Spencer Lo

Like factory farming, animal experimentation is an entrenched practice, one which causes extensive suffering to millions of animals per year despite the poor justification in terms of human benefits. Bioethicist Dr. Andrew Knight, author of the book “The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments,” discussed the ethical problems of animal experimentation and related issues over at ARZone (see also here). Because of the problems with justification, a welcome development is the continuing search for alternatives to animal testing, and animal ethics committees (AECs) set up to scrutinize research proposals are required to consider such alternatives before granting approval, as part of their mandate to ensure compliance with the 3Rs—the principles of Reduction, Refinement, and Replacement. In Australia, for instance, a guiding principle in the Australian Code of Practice is to “promote the development and use of techniques that replace the use of animals in scientific and teaching activities.” The Replacement Principle gained further strength in 2008 with the following guideline: “if a viable alternative method exists that would partly or wholly replace the use of animals in a project, the Code requires investigators to use that alternative.” Thus, at face value, it appears that animal experimentation can be carefully scrutinized and suffering minimized, with animal use permitted only for the most important reasons.   Read more