3-Ethical issues, harm-benefit assessment and humane endpoints

Each research project has its own set of ethical challenges, but the following general questions should be raised for all projects:

  1. Have national or local research ethics committees already produced statements relevant to the research being planned?
  2. Have the Three Rs (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) been addressed, and will any advances in this area be mentioned in publications of the study (remembering that many databases only index the title and abstract of papers)? Which non-animal alternatives have been considered but rejected?
  3. Have the Three S's (Good Science, Good Sense and Good Sensibilities) been addressed?
  4. Does the proposed study have a clear rationale and scientific relevance, and what will be the next step if the hypothesis is supported or rejected?
  5. Have the experiments been carried out before, and is any repetition justifiable?
  6. What approaches to reduce distress have been considered?

Choosing the right animal for the right reason’ (Harry Rowsell).
The large increase in use of genetically altered lines has created increasing concern about the suitability of these animals as models of human conditions. This, and the high level of attrition in animal research, is discussed in a paper by Joseph Garner (2014): The Significance of Meaning: Why Do Over 90% of Behavioral Neuroscience Results Fail to Translate to Humans, and What Can We Do to Fix It?

Ethics are also discussed in a separate section of this website

General principles
For fish researchers

Animals have traditionally been used in education and training for a wide variety of reasons, and at all levels from junior school through University to research laboratories.

Clear definition of the objectives of the exercise in which animals, or animal material, are proposed will make it easier to reach a decision as to whether the use is still justifiable or not. Possible objectives include:

  • Teaching and practising
    • laboratory skills
    • general animal handling skills
    • preparation-specific animal skills
  • imparting good ethical thinking
  • new knowledge and reinforcing existing
  • data handling skills
  • experimental design skills
  • communication skills (oral, written)
  • group work
  • staff-student interaction

Many of these objectives can be reached without animal use, or with simulators. In some of these cases, animal use may even act negatively on the audience (e.g. if the aim is to impart good ethical thinking, or if the Three Rs are part of the curriculum). The use of animals in school dissections is increasingly questioned, and there are now a large number of alternatives available.



This page was updated on 24 June 2021

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