The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics (OCAE) has produced a review of the ethics of using animals in research. Extracts:
"New scientific critiques raise issues of the unreliability of animal experiments; the unpredictability of laboratory environments; the difference between human diseases and “animal models” of disease; the differences in physiology and genetic function of different species; and the development of more predictive human-based testing. The upshot is that it is no longer accurate or reasonable —if it ever was — to say that the only moral choice is between experimenting on animals and giving up on scientific progress.Read a full summary here.
The Three Rs — Replacement, Reduction and Refinement — which is supposed to result in humane laboratory-based research, is endorsed by the EU. Governments pay lip service to the Three Rs but in practice they are massively underfunded and ineffectual. Even where controls exist, they are found wanting. This is confirmed by disturbing evidence provided by undercover investigations.
Animal experimentation is often justified by the assertion that human interest requires such experiments. But we should question whether humans have ever benefited by the abuse of animals. In fact, humans can be harmed — by desensitisation, loss of empathy, habituation, and denial. We now know that there is a strong link between animal abuse and violence to human beings.
New scientific evidence must make us challenge the claim of utility, since we now know that many experiments have provided misleading or erroneous results. The same logic that justifies experiments on animals also justifies the practice in relation to humans. Prisoners of war, people of colour, Jewish people, children and many others have been subject to experimentation. This normalising of the unthinkable needs to be de-normalised and deinstitutionalised. Ethical research techniques need to be fully institutionalised, and there should be a massive switch of funding to non-animal replacement techniques as a matter of urgency."