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Ethics of Using Animals in Medical Research

The use of animals in medical research, testing, and experiments provokes debates because of the non-ethical nature of treating animals for scientific and medical purposes. On the one hand, people traditionally use animals to satisfy their basic needs. On the other hand, animals should be seen from an ethical point of view, and any cruelty in animal treatment for the purpose of providing more benefits for people cannot be allowed. Although the use of animals in medical research is discussed as having many benefits for people, this practice should not be permissible because research procedures cause animals’ suffering, the use of animals in experiments is not based on the same ethical principles as the humans’ involvement, and cruel tests can be effectively changed with alternative procedures.

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Those animals which are used in medical research and experiments suffer from much pain and harm, and these procedures violate the animals’ rights. As it is noted by Marinescu and Coman, “we cut the ears of the animals … to mark them, we cut their tails for genetic analysis, we induce burns, we make them subject experimental infections or to the action of chemicals and, in the end, we kill them” (Marinescu & Coman, 2010, p. 198). As a result, animals suffer from not only pain but also fear, and all these scientific procedures lead to animals’ death in agony. In this context, it is impossible to state that it is ethical to use animals in medical research.

Scientists apply different ethical principles while treating humans and animals in medical research and experiments. Animals are selected for the research and testing according to the criteria appropriate for a scientist, and they cannot demonstrate their consent to participate in the experiment. Humans are treated more ethically because they can participate in medical experiments as volunteers, and they understand the consequences of their choices (Kupper & Buning, 2011, p. 433). In this case, it is possible to speak about the “human exceptionalism” that is immoral because the interests of humans are prioritized in comparison with the interests of animals (Joffe, Bara, Anton, & Nobis, 2014, p. 21). From this point, pragmatic actions of people result in ignoring animals’ rights.

In addition, it is important to note that the use of animals in medical research is an outdated practice that can be changed with alternative ethical methods today. Scientists can use a variety of alternative research methods instead of using animals in their experiments (Joffe et al., 2014, p. 21). In spite of the fact that other methods are expensive, they are rather ethical, and they do not pose a question about the choice between the violation of animals’ rights and research for improving the quality of human life. Thus, while using alternative medical research methods, it is possible to avoid the issue of false morality related to animal treatment.

Scientists make significant efforts to find remedies for different diseases, and their goal is rather human. However, the use of animals in medical research cannot be justified despite the goal of this research for people. The reason is that animals can feel pain and suffer like humans, but they are treated by scientists differently. As a result, there is a place for double moral standards. Furthermore, it is important to choose the alternative variant that is safe for animals at any time when it is possible.


Joffe, A., Bara, M., Anton, N., & Nobis, N. (2014). The ethics of animal research: A survey of pediatric health care workers. Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine, 9(1), 20-30.

Kupper, J., & Buning, C. (2011). Deliberating animal values: A pragmatic-pluralistic approach to animal ethics. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 24(5), 431-450.

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Marinescu, B., & Coman, C. (2010). The ethics of animals testing. Romanian Journal of Bioethics, 8(3), 197-204.

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