Bad PR? Or are there other reasons the public opposes animal experimentation?

Rhesus Monkeys

How does the general public really feel about animal experimentation? If they oppose it, is it simply because they are not well informed about it? That’s what many in the scientific community believe. And they plan to change the way they talk about their animal experiments with lay audiences, in the hope that this will lead to an increase in public acceptance.

At the nonhuman primate workshop held by the National Institutes of Health earlier this month, participants discussed whether lack of support for nonhuman primate research was driven by lack of conversation about it with the general public.

Charles Murry, a researcher at the University of Washington, stated, “Our press people tell us not to mention the word ‘monkey.’ We should be doing more than trying to keep a low profile. That’s the path to the extinction of the whole program.”

The general public and animal advocates alike welcome transparency from the scientific community about how and why nonhuman primates—and all animals—are being used in experiments. But learning more about animal experimentation may not necessarily lead to greater public support as animal experimenters believe. In fact, we anticipate and hope that these discussions would lead to more conversations about ethics and alternatives to animal use.

From the nonhuman primate workshop, it was clear that researchers are prepared to discuss science. However, when discussing science in the presence of bioethicists, researchers were reminded that scientific justification is just one factor that must be considered. Moral justification cannot be ignored. To that end, we encourage increased openness and communication between scientists and ethicists. Doing so could help researchers view their animal experimentation protocols with a new perspective that better incorporates moral justification.

Having a better understanding of where and how animals are used in research is also essential for identifying areas of science in which innovative, human-relevant models need to be developed and utilized. These conversations could enhance our understanding of how well scientists are implementing the three R’s—reduction, refinement and replacement—of animal use, and if there are opportunities to improve.

As the scientific community prepares to communicate more about their experiments, we, as animal advocates, should also reassess how we communicate our message. We need to reiterate that we share a common goal with researchers—advancement of science. However, we envision this advancement taking place not through reliance on animals, but through the development and use of innovative, human-relevant models. We believe that the use of alternatives may help scientists get better answers they need more quickly and at less expense, both financially and ethically.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Send your questions and comments to

Project Seeks to Improve Image of Animal Research
September 11, 2016

A new initiative in Germany aims to increase the public’s comfort with animal-based science; US government holds workshop on nonhuman primate research.

For more information, see: The Scientist


This entry was posted in News and tagged on September 19, 2016.
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