Monday, January 28, 2008

Reducing the use of animals in research

It's cool when science turns its methods back on itself to improve its own methods. In some ways you could argue that this is what science is about, anyway; but sometimes, there's a more obvious ethical impact to such self-improving activities.

Today's example is researchers who are working to find ways of reducing the use of animals in research (AP story). Contrary to what some critics seem to believe, it's simply not true that researchers who work with animals don't care about the animals' welfare. You can listen to a pretty powerful story that illustrates what I mean here--the link you want is the first one, "Don't Fall in Love with Your Monkey."

Research that aims at reducing the number of animals used in research by finding technological substitutes, research that tries to find ways of reducing the pain and distress animal subjects experience when they are used in research--these are not super-high priorities for federal funding. (You can learn more about protections and guidelines that govern the use of animals in research here.)

It's worth noting that the push for the research referenced in the news tag above is partly a response to help corporations deal with the upcoming EU ban on animal testing. There's a lesson here: when financial incentives exist to build a better mousetrap (sorry for the unfortunate metaphor), science will focus on the problem...whether the funds come from the feds, from corporations, or from abroad.

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