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Animal Centered Research

The Animal Centred Research Project aims to develop an ethical framework for the involvement of animals in research which is informed by animal-centered principles and which explicitly recognizes animals’ autonomy, interests and role, in order to support a nuanced ethical approach to animal research and the best possible research for the benefit of animal partakers and wider society. 

Photo by Forest Simon

The Project

Benefits and limitations of humane animal research principles

 

The involvement of animals in research procedures that can harm them and to which they are deemed unable to consent raises fundamental ethical dilemmas. Proposed over 60 years ago, the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (3Rs) address these dilemmas: wherever possible, animal use in research procedures should be replaced with alternative methods or more complex species should be replaced with species deemed less sentient; the number of animals used in research procedures should be reduced as far as possible; research procedures should be refined to minimize any negative impact on the animals involved.

 

The 3Rs are widely regarded as the gold standard for humane animal research, and the best compromise between animal welfare and research aims. But, while their application has yielded significant benefits for both the welfare of research animals and the quality of animal research, they also have various limitations. Most notably, within the 3Rs framework animals are still fundamentally instruments of research rather than participants in research. This contrasts with frameworks regulating the involvement of participants in human-centered research, which protect their autonomy and wellbeing, and require their just treatment.

 

From humane research to animal-centered research

 

This project aims to explore the possibility of developing an animal centered approach to the use of animals in research by rearticulating the 3Rs framework and integrating the following principles: 

1. animals should be involved in research procedures only when these are directly relevant and beneficial to them (principle of relevance);

2. all involved individuals should be equitably protected, not in virtue of their attributed capacities but of their role as research participants (principle of impartiality);

3. research procedures should give priority to their biological integrity and individual autonomy (principle of welfare);

4. individuals’ informed consent should always be garnered, comprising mediated consent from legal guardians and welfare experts in the animals’ best interests, and contingent consent from the animals themselves, as expressed by their willingness to engage and chosen modalities of engagement (principle of consent).

Ultimately, the project aims to provide a resource for researchers and practitioners whose work involves animals and for whom the application of animal-cantered technologies, methods or frameworks may be relevant.

Latest Publications

Towards an integrated ethical review process: an animal-centered research framework for the refinement of research procedures

In previous work we proposed an Animal-Centered Research framework (ACRf) comprising four animal-centered research principles (relevance, impartiality, welfare and consent) which could help researchers and ethical review bodies apprise research designs from an animal-centered perspective. This paper builds on and further develops our previous work by contextualizing the ACRf within the bigger picture of animal research ethical review and by illustrating how the ACRf could be operationalized within current ethical review processes. We contribute an extended framework that integrates the application of the ACRf principles within the ethical review process. To this end, we present findings from a theoretical case study focusing on the ethical review of a research protocol on the study of stress response in pigs. We discuss how our extended framework could be easily applied to facilitate a holistic approach to the ethical review process, and inform an iterative process of refinement, to support the development of research designs that are both more ethical and scientifically valid.

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