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Nuffield Council on Bioethics seeks views on research involving animals


The Nuffield Council on Bioethics launches a consultation about research involving animals. Can we justify research on animals? How much do animals actually suffer? Does a mouse have a different moral status than a monkey? Who should fund research into alternatives?

Many people are concerned about the use of animals in research. There is also widespread recognition of the need for more medical research. Since much of this currently involves animals, these two views are not easily reconciled. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, recognising that people feel very deeply about this topic, has set up a Working Party to consider the ethical issues. As part of this process, the Council is inviting comments on the topic.

A major focus of the consultation is on the increasing use of genetically modified (GM) animals. Last year, one quarter of all animal procedures – 710,000 in total – involved GM animals, a tenfold increase since 1991. This dramatic increase raises a number of new questions. Are GM animals ‘unnatural’ and if so, why? Are there types of animals that should never be created? Some animals may be created to suffer on a long-term basis, for example from Parkinson’s disease. Can this be justified?

The Council is also asking for comments on four other areas: the acceptability of using animals, developing alternatives to animal research, regulations in the UK, and the provision of information to the public. "We are looking forward to hearing a wide range of views on these questions," said Baroness Perry of Southwark, Chairman of the Working Party. "We would welcome comments from individuals and organisations on ethical, social and legal implications of this very emotive topic."

All responses will be considered by the Working Party, which includes members with backgrounds in animal welfare, philosophy, science, law and veterinary practice. The Council expects to publish a Report early in 2005.

Nicola Perrin | Nuffield Council on Bioethics
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