In the last century, animal models have also been included in experimental work in research in the field of life sciences, and in biomedicine in particular in recent decades. Most of the experimental animals are vertebrates with a highly developed nervous system and the ability to feel pain and distress. In a certain proportion of experiments, they are subjected to this feeling without their “consent”, which does not happen when it comes to human participation. So we may ask ourselves, do we have a moral right to treat animals in this way? This short paper outlines the pros and cons of using animals in research and provides some information on activities that maintain and develop high ethical standards in animal testing. I conclude the article with the view that in certain cases and in a certain way it is acceptable to use animals in experiments. Although this article is written for a journal read predominantly by scientists, experts, and the general public who are particularly interested in neuroscience, the article will not only deal in detail with research in this area. Its author has neither the relevant experience nor the knowledge to competently deal with these. In general, however, I can conclude that animal research in the field of neuroscience has also had a significant impact on advances in the acquisition of new basic knowledge as well as applications in medicine (Koichi 2013, Xi et al. 2011 and other references). As in many other fields, there are critical views in neuroscience on the use of animals in research, most often mentioning the lack of relevant animal models and the slow translation of findings in animal studies into clinics (Markou et al. 2013).
However, animal models for neuroscience research are important primarily because of the large number of previous studies, the small brain size of model organisms, and the availability and rapid development of genetically modified organisms with target neuropathology that serve as models for human neuropathies. Last but not least, one of the largest new projects in the field of biomedicine in the USA, the “Mouse Connectome Project” confirms the importance of using animal models in neuroscience. Although I will not discuss animal experiments in detail in this area, I believe that the dilemmas and ethical concerns are similar to those in other research areas, so I hope that the article will be useful for such readers as well.
Reasons for the use of animals in research The main three areas of research using animals are: basic science (mainly academic sphere), the development of new active substances (industry, also in conjunction with the academic sphere) and the testing of medicines. The latter is the so-called regulated area where certain tests using animals are legally prescribed. It should be emphasized that, in most research in the above areas, animals do not use animals – from eighty to fourty percent of the results are obtained by methods in vitro or and silica. The facts that speak in favor of the use of animals in research is much. The main discoveries of biosecurity and medicine in the past century were related to animal research. Almost every Nobel Prize winner since 1901 onwards worked experiments on animals in the field of physiology and medicine. In addition to the great importance of such research in medicine, it is often an overlooked fact that animal research was also crucial for advancement in animal health. In the following, I briefly mention some concrete examples of the development of new knowledge and therapies, where animal research was necessary for breakthrough new discoveries. Already in the penicillin, the first antibiotic, Fried in 1928, Florey and Chain, who, together with the Fleminga discoverer, shared the Nobel Prize, have found that with experiments in laboratory animals that we can treat with it As we know, this discovery revolutionary changed the way in which the infectious diseases are deserving and is deserving for a significant extension of the expected life expectancy. Therapy with insulin, without which diabetes would still be fatal today, was developed with animal experiments, especially in mice, rabbits and pigs. The development of vaccines is also largely linked to basic and applied research involving animals. Each year, vaccination resolves millions of lives and avoid millions of people, da would suffer or have a reduced quality of life due to the long-term consequences of infectious diseases. Before the introduction of routine vaccination, infectious diseases were the main cause of death at a global level. For example, animals experiments were key to the development of vaccines for children’s paralysis (polyomyelitis), tuberculosis, meningitis and tetanus. Some serious infectious diseases, such as black goats (variola), are now eradicated at a global level due to the development of vaccines with the help of animal models. Similarly, the development of anesthetics, antiastmatic and antidepressants was strongly related to research on animal models. The results of newer research of animal models for neurodegenerative diseases (eg Alzheimer, Parkinson, etc.), which, depending on the growing trends of aging population, are becoming more and more frequent. In the field of cancer treatment, especially research on the mouse models, they significantly contribute to the development of new skills and therapeutic approaches. These therapeutic approaches today, in many forms of cancer, allow the patient’s life expectancy to be longer, and the quality of his life significantly improves. As an example, I can list Herceptin, where it is a humanized mouse protein and tamoxifen, which are both successfully used in the treatment of breast cancer. The development of recently introduced anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) was greatly dependent on animal research, and thus AIDS today is no longer a death. I also need to mention that the development of certain new surgical techniques, from orthopedic, to those they use in the transplantation of the heart and other bodies, in transfusions, etc., is not possible without prior testing on animal models (especially pigs). Also, animal procedures are needed in the awareness of surgeons with some new materials and techniques that can not be conquered on the triplates of deaths and people before introducing new difficult interventions in patients and people, not using alternative methods. The development of non-invasive diagnostic methods, such as computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), was linked to research using animals. These non-invasive methods today have greatly improved diagnostics in the case of human health and animals, and they are successfully used to replace or reduce the use of animals in experiments.
Reasons AGAINST the use of animals in research
The above are several examples that support the thesis that animal research, especially in the last century, has had a significant impact on the acquisition of new knowledge in the field of life sciences and applications in human and veterinary medicine. However, this fact alone does not mean that every scientific discovery – and consequently progress – depends (only) on animal experiments. It would also be wrong to conclude how necessary it is for these successes to make animal experiments remain the dominant methodology in this century as well.
Such debates and ethical dilemmas often revolve around the question of whether we have the right to use animals in experiments. One of the key arguments of opponents of the use of animals in experiments is the ability of animals to feel pain and suffering and to limit the possibilities of their normal behavior. Furthermore, the question of the mental and intellectual complexity of the organism arises, which differs between animals and within the developmental stages of man and animals. At the heart of the discussions are different views on the moral status of animals and their evaluation compared to the moral status of humans. In this paper, I will not go into more detailed explanations of various ethical theories and views. Basically, however, concerns about the use of animals in research are based on two philosophical views, the utilitarian and the deontological, which I briefly summarize below.
In utilitarianism, we judge whether an act is acceptable or unacceptable based on the consequences of such an act. The consequences are assessed by the so-called “cost-benefit” analysis. This view was used by the philosopher Peter Singer in his book Animal Liberation (Singer, 1975), which was the basis for the development of various international animal liberation movements and the banning of animal experiments. Singer argues that all sentient animals have the same “rights” as humans. He goes on to say that animals can be more intelligent and have a higher level of consciousness than infants or mentally handicapped adults. He writes that it may be ethically more acceptable to perform experiments on them than, for example, on a healthy adult chimpanzee.
Another philosopher with a strong view of animal rights is Tom Regan. In his case, The Case for Animal Rights (Regan, 1983), he relies more on deontological ethical theory, which focuses on what we do with animals and not so much on what happens to animals as a result of our actions. He takes the view that the use of animals (or humans) in experiments is in principle wrong and should be banned, regardless of the benefits that this research may bring to humanity.
Although in recent decades the initiative for the protection of animals and for increased control of experiments has come mainly from researchers (Russell and Burch 1959), the views and activities of various societies and organizations have contributed greatly to the discussion and changes in legislation on animal testing. for the protection of animals. In many ways, I do not share the views of the above-mentioned ethical views and activism for animal rights, and not even the extreme ones that would prohibit any use of animals in research. Such a ban in more developed countries would likely lead to the relocation of animal testing to countries where legislation in this area is not regulated or sufficiently controlled, which can be even more unethical for animals as well as for humans and the environment. This thesis is supported by the case of the restriction of certain embryonic stem cell research, which came into force in the United States in the 1990s, during the Bush administration. As a result, the relocation of Western industry and research in the academic sphere has also taken place, especially in Asia, where legislation has been relaxed. Therefore, in the field of this research, there have been cases of unethical treatment of animals and humans. However, I agree with the proponents of banning animal testing in the part that bans all animal testing that is poorly designed, where we do not expect results that would bring significant shifts in the acquisition of new basic knowledge that would benefit humans, animals and the environment. and in case there are alternative approaches without the use of animals. The latter is significantly complemented by research that is evolving at an accelerated pace, but in some areas these approaches cannot yet replace animal research.
There are three main reasons for using animals in research. The first reason is certainly the acquisition of new scientific knowledge and thus the improvement and development of new medical and diagnostic procedures and ensuring safety (medicines, food, various new compounds…) for humans, animals and the environment. We use animals in research when we want to determine the mechanisms and effects at the level of the whole organism, which is a much more complex thing to do than studying at the level of molecules, cells, tissue cultures, etc. So far, there are no alternative methods that could completely replace the use of animals for such research and tests. That the replacement of animal experiments with alternative methods, where they exist, is actually being put into practice is shown by a Carlsson et al study (2004), which analyzed 2,800 scientific articles published in major biomedical journals between 1970 and 2000. the number of articles almost tripled during this time, and the number of studies using experimental animals fell by a third (the “replacement” principle). In animal studies, however, the average number was halved (the “reduction” principle). Without animal research, it would be difficult to make major scientific discoveries in the fields of biosciences and medicine, and in the field of prevention and treatment of human and animal diseases. If we were to stop animal research, I have a hard time imagining how to come up with a solution to some of today’s most difficult health and environmental problems. Proponents of the utilitarian approach would ask, do we have the right to give up animal testing and thereby cause suffering to people and animals who are or will be suffering from incurable diseases? On the other hand, animal research cannot be taken as our universal and absolute right, but rather as a special and limited privilege.
I am not advocating positions that would legally prohibit or morally prosecute this practice, but of course we should not take it irresponsibly. I believe that the dynamic process of legislation in the EU and other Western countries is proof that this activity is regulated and monitored in a responsible way, and that it adapts to changes in ethical standards and public opinion. I would like to see some global legislation in this area soon, thus preventing unethical animal testing and testing around the world. If in the past the principle of usefulness for humans and the environment was at the forefront – before the risks and harms of animals in research – today the principle of non-harm and the principle of justice are coming to the fore, where “good” and “bad” are divided between humans and animals. balanced play. There is also a strong control principle that prohibits inappropriate activities and animal testing from the outset and monitors the implementation of approved experiments in an efficient and democratic manner. With this, the strictly anthropocentric view of the use of animals in research is slowly receding – belonging to the human species itself no longer automatically means moral superiority.
Over the last twenty years, public opinion on animal research has changed radically. Scientific discoveries and experiments on animals have greatly contributed to this, with the help of which we have gained new insights into the fact that animals are sentient beings, about their perception of pain and distress, and about their spiritual capacities. All this has led to changes in legislation that emphasize animal welfare in experiments, reduce the number of animal experiments and replace them with alternative methods. While I welcome such an evolution of ethical thinking and legislation on the use of animals in research, I have great concerns about other ways of using animals, where we encounter similar ethical dilemmas and where animals are also exposed to pain and distress and awareness. Here I am referring to the use of animals for certain sporting and traditional activities of certain cultures (eg bullfighting, fox hunting), abandoned social animals, rodents, which we exterminate in large numbers from our cellars, gardens and towns through rodent control, poisons or traps. and last but not least, certain activities of social animals that prey on other animals. For example, research in the UK has shown that domestic cats alone kill (often in an inhumane way) eighty times more animals (mostly rodents and birds) in one year than the year-round consumption of animals in experiments in that country. I am not stating all of the above to justify animal testing, but I would point out that there are different criteria for doing so. Researchers, together with other people, need to make more efforts to ensure standards that are ethically and morally objective and that we can logically defend. When it comes to double standards in dealing with the ethics of attitudes towards different animal species, these often stem from different “feelings” of people towards a particular animal species. To illustrate: people have a different attitude towards domestic animals such as dogs, cats or horses than they do towards rats, mice, pigs or cattle, and they find the suffering of dogs or horses much more ethically controversial than, for example, the suffering of rats or cattle. Also because of such views, some species of animals have been given greater legal protection or a ban on research in the legislation. Although strict legislation with rules and possible sanctions can ensure that high ethical standards are maintained in animal research (or other animal uses), the legal protection of animals alone is unlikely to be sufficient. Other types of unethical behavior are also difficult to eradicate through legislation alone (eg sexism, racism). Even “softer” approaches are needed to help enforce rules in legislation, such as “politics”, balanced public debates and fair media reporting. Among researchers using animals, regular critical discussions, a degree of “self-regulation” and open dialogue with the lay public are essential. Openness, readiness for dialogue between all participants, from researchers to opponents of the use of animals in experiments, public awareness and impartial and argument-based media reporting, is the way forward towards democratic solutions and compromises in ethically sensitive areas such as animal research. This short contribution also aims to shed light on the background of the ethical dilemmas of animal research, with hope and an invitation to a better understanding of this issue and a more fruitful public debate.