The use of animals

• Constraints on the use of animals • Arguments for and against their use in psychological research
• Practical • Moral & ethical

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The use of animals
• Many pitfalls for the unwary:
• Unsubstantiated assertion e.g. animals feel as much pain as humans • Naïve assumptions e.g. animal researchers do it because they’re evil and they enjoy it • Irrelevance e.g. writing about medical, surgical or cosmetic research, not psychological investigations

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The use of animals
• Many examples are possible, from many different areas e.g.:
• Developmental (maternal deprivation) • Physiological (stress, sleep) • Abnormal (drug treatments)

• Try to select a variety to show synopticity

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Constraints on use
• Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act
• • • • Licensing & inspection Constraints on numbers & species Requirements for suitable facilities Competence & qualification requirements

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Constraints on use
• BPS guidelines on animal research
• • • • Specific application to psychology Requirement for humane treatment Requirement to consider alternatives Cost benefit analysis

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Arguments for
• Practical arguments (is it useful?)
• Continuity • Convenience • Usefulness

• Ethical arguments (is it moral?)
• Utilitarianism • Duty to species

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Continuity
• We share common ancestry with other animals (Darwin, 1859)
• Basic similarities in physiological structure & functioning • Behavioural similarities with some species (e.g. primates) • Animal research therefore gives valid information about human processes

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Convenience
• Animals can be used in ways humans can’t
• Short lifespans & breeding cycles enable inheritance to be studied • Behaviour can be controlled and monitored in ways impossible with people • Less reactivity

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Usefulness
• Animal research is demonstrably useful to psychologists
• Knowledge of nervous system structure & functioning • Understanding of stress, abnormal behaviour, sleep… • Our understanding of human behaviour would be very limited if not for animal research

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Ethical arguments
• Utilitarian
• The suffering of a small number of animals is justified because it helps a large number of people

• Moral duty
• We have a moral obligation to our own species to advance knowledge and reduce suffering. Animal research is justified if it furthers this (Gray, 1991)

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Other points
• The constraints on the use of animals protect animals sufficiently and prevent unnecessary suffering • This is shown by:
• Reduction in number and range of animals used in labs • Increase in non-invasive & field-based studies

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Arguments against
• Counterarguments to those presented in favour of animal research
• • • • Discontinuity or continuity? Ecological validity Generalisability Moral arguments

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Discontinuity or continuity?
• Points out an inconsistency in continuity argument
• If other animals are so similar to us they should be afforded the same ethical considerations as us • Or, if they are so different from us, then generalisation is of questionable value

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Ecological validity
• Questions the value of the data obtained from animal studies
• Lab based animal studies produce unnatural behaviour (e.g. drug addiction studies) • Field studies disturb the environment & consequently, behaviour

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Generalisability
• Suggests that even when data are valid, they can’t be applied to humans
• Differences in human and animal evolution & genes • Structural differences in nervous system (e.g. cerebral cortex) • Influence of language, culture, higher cognitive processes

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Moral arguments
• Utilitarianism gives human suffering priority over animal suffering – this is a form of discrimination (speciesism; Singer, 1975) • Animals have rights as people do. We have a moral obligation to protect them. No amount of regulation can justify animal research

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Other points
• Safeguards are difficult to enforce; abuses may be undetected • Cost benefit analyses as required by guidelines easily skewed in favour of research • The fact that you never know in advance the outcome of research means that some will always be useless

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Conclusions
• These are up to you, but make sure you…
• Look at both sides • Present a balanced argument • Use suitable examples to support your claims

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