Comments & suggestions  should be directed to Visit my website ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS Questions concerning the ethics of animal use in research and teaching have been debated by scientists, theologians, philosophers and the lay public since the use of animals for these purposes began.  Even when consideration is restricted to recent discussions of the issue, there are almost as many ethical positions as there are writers on the subject.  The prevailing view is that animals can and should be used in research which benefits humans and the ecosystems provided there is no acceptable alternative to such use.  Implicit in this view is the expectation that research animals will be treated humanely.  Extreme views are held by small minorities.  On the one hand are those who believe that humans have no responsibility to other animals and, therefore, any use of animals is permissible.  On the other hand are those who believe that all animals, human and non-human, have the same rights and, therefore, humans have no right to use animals for any purpose.  There are many variants of each of these views and even among those who hold that animals have legal rights there is disagreement about whether all species should be accorded the same moral or legal status. Following the prevailing view, laws and regulations at many levels require the humane treatment of animals used in research and teaching.  Essential elements of humane treatment include that animals be housed in clean, comfortable quarters, that they be fed an adequate diet, and that they be maintained in good health.  There is no general agreement as to what additional factors might be necessary for humane treatment.  Most conscientious researchers and the agencies which regulate animal care accept that an animal's well-being is dependent on its mental state as well as its physical state.  It is also recognized, however, that it is much more difficult to establish objective guidelines for the assessment of the psychological well-being of an animal than it is to monitor physical well- being. Subjective Experience in Animals Early views on the capacity of animals to experience pain and other sensations were often predicated more on philosophical positions than on scientific observation.   Recent evidence regarding subjective experience in animals comes from neurophysiological and behavioral studies. Physiological evidence indicates that animals which possess a central nervous system, or which show evidence of receptors for endogenous opioids, have the potential to experience pain.  Behavioral evidence of pain in many higher vertebrates is similar to its manifestations in humans, including screaming, squealing and struggling.  Behavioral evidence of pain in species more remotely related to humans (e.g. fish), and of less obvious forms of distress like fear, frustration, exhaustion and anxiety in all nonhuman animals is more difficult to identify. Captivity and Suffering (top of page) Some opponents of the use of animals in research have suggested that captivity alone causes suffering for animals.  They argue that distress is indicated whenever an animal shows behavior that deviates from the behavior exhibited by wild conspecifics.  This concept of suffering is based on unfounded assumptions about the relationship between behavior of wild and captive animals. Behavior of wild and captive or domestic members of the same species may differ for a number of reasons.  For example, many species commonly used in research have been subject to many years of artificial selection by humans.  The genetics and the normal behavior of these animals may now be very different from those of their wild progenitors.  In addition, many ethological studies, such as the pioneering work of Konrad Lorenz, have shown the importance of early experience on later behavior. Animals of wild parentage, which are born and raised under captive conditions, may behave differently than wild born and raised conspecifics.  Such genetic and environmentally determined behavioral differences do not automatically indicate suffering. Is it legitimate to interpret all behavioral differences between wild and captive animals as negative ones?  Animals in captivity are free from the need to watch for and to escape from predators.  It is difficult to interpret this alteration in the animal's environment as a negative one, or to conclude that animals suffer by not having to avoid predators.  It has been argued that safety alone does not constitute psychological well being, especially for normally social animals housed alone.  This is an important consideration, and in this case, knowledge of the behavior of wild animals may be useful in designing research environments which promote psychological well-being.  It is often assumed that wild animals live in a natural paradise and that it is only the appearance and intervention of human agencies that bring about suffering. This view is at odds with the wealth of information derived from field studies of animal populations.  Scarcity of food and water, predation, disease and intraspecific aggression are some of the factors which have been identified as normal parts of a wild environment which cause suffering in wild animals on a regular basis. Recognizing Signs of Distress in Laboratory Animals As is the case with pain, physiological parameters and behavioral responses provide important cues to distress in animals, although distress is more difficult to define and identify than pain.  Physiological parameters include hormonal responses, increased susceptibility to disease, or weight changes.  Any unusual behavior in an animal which shows physiological signs of stress may be such a cue (Table 1).  Some behavioral changes, however, may be normal adaptive responses which help the animal cope with a new environment or moderate stress, so behavioral changes should not automatically be considered pathological.  Behavioral changes which occur in the absence of physiological signs of stress may also indicate suffering.  For example, conflict behavior, in which an animal exhibits conflicting tendencies to perform different or incompatible behaviors, may indicate fear or frustration.  Conflict behavior can, however, result in positive stimuli also, such as conflict between the desires to eat and mate. Animal Rights (top of page) The following discussion represents common animal rights activists’ allegations regarding the use of animals in research and responses to these allegations.  This discussion was prepared by “incurably ill For Animal Research” (iiFAR). Animal Rights