Animals are fascinating to study in their own right and studies can benefit animals in terms of breeding techniques, sleeping and feeding patterns and help with preventing extinction for endangered animals. Animals offer researchers greater control and objectivity and have much in common with humans in terms physiology and evolutionary past to justify findings to be applied to humans however an alternative view states that if animals are tested under unnatural and stressful conditions that the results will be invalid.
Informed consent is a problem when using non human participants as animals cannot consent to partaking nor can they become aware of the aims and understand the procedure. Potential harm is the main ethical dilemma in using animals in research, hence the cost benefit analysis. Weighing up the potential gain against potential harm to the animals. Seligman electrocuted dogs in his study, they learned to give up hope and this developed a learned hopelessness theory in humans, this is criticised as the knowledge obtained doesn’t justify the harm suffered by the participants. Harlow studied different variations of separation of infant rhesus monkeys from their mothers. In one study he used a cloth mother and a bottle holding mother to develop a theory on the importance of the emotional needs of infants specifically the comfort aspect of a mother as findings showed that the infants spent the majority of their time with the cloth (comfort ) providing mother model. Another model mother developed was known as the monster mother, used to demonstrate fear to the infant monkeys, which affected the way these monkeys treated their own young, the damage to the monkeys was irreversible. This lead to changes in the way premature babies are treated in hospitals therefore made an important contribution to society however in a more controversial study Harlow used the pit of despair. An isolation chamber, the monkeys were in total isolation for a period of 3, 6, 12, or 24 months. They experienced severe psychological problems and one monkey who was isolated for just three months, when released refused to eat and died as a result of this. The autopsy revealed the cause of death was emotional anorexia, in this study the harm to the animals was not justified by the knowledge obtained therefore Harlow’s research highlighted ethical issues and mistreatment of animals in research and contributed to the changes made and legislations created. Such costs would be illegal outside a laboratory setting.
Treaty of Lisbon December 2009 said that all animals are sentient; meaning that they respond to and feel pain but this may not be the same as conscious awareness. Controversially some humans such as brain damaged individuals and infants aren’t sentient and wouldn’t be researched without informed consent and right to withdraw. Singer argues that whatever produces the greater good for the greater number is acceptable. John Regan strongly opposes this view, the latter’s absolutist views are furthered by saying that animals should be treated with respect.
The UK Animals (scientific procedures) Act 1986…