Benefits and harms of animal testing: a clearer assessment
How can we assess the suffering caused during an animal experiment? This research project seeks to make recommendations that will enable more clear-cut ethical decisions to be made in future.
Before the Swiss authorities authorise an animal experiment, they must carry out a harm-benefit analysis that answers various questions. How great is the harm caused to the animal? How great is the benefit for research and for society? In practice, it is often very difficult to weigh up these two considerations. How can we quantify the suffering of the animals? How can we measure the benefits? And how can the two be compared?
There is an additional obstacle in Switzerland, because the Federal Constitution stipulates that the “dignity of the animal” must be considered. This means asking, for example, how the dignity of an animal can be harmed. Professionals working in this area in Switzerland and abroad face significant practical difficulties in carrying out a harm-benefit analysis.
“One of the problems is that we don’t have any clear ethical criteria for assessing ‘pathocentric’ harm such as pain or stress in animals,” explains project leader Matthias Eggel from the University of Basel. “And there are also no corresponding criteria for evaluating ‘non-pathocentric’ harm such as instrumentalisation or infringement of bodily integrity, which encroach on the dignity of the animal.”
Matthias Eggel’s research project seeks to make headway with this difficult issue.
Beyond the 3Rs - Developing a 21st century account of strains and harms in animal research