Ethics in Biomedical Research with Animals

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  • 0:01 Biomedical Research
  • 0:48 History
  • 1:59 Argument
  • 2:48 IACUC
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Over the course of this lesson, you'll briefly learn about the history of animal use in research, some arguments for and against it, as well as how such research is regulated.

Biomedical Research

One of the places where veterinary professionals can work is in the field of biomedical research, research based on biological and physiological principles that is applied to clinical medicine. Here, you'll find animals of all sorts being experimented upon in many different ways: most often for mainly human benefit, such as the research of life saving drugs; but sometimes for direct animal benefits, as well.

The use of animals in research can be a hot button issue, and more efforts as of late have been put into developing alternatives to the use of animals in research. For now, however, the ethics of animal use in biomedical research is still a very important topic. Let's glance at some of the questions and answers raised in this subject by the scientific and philosophical community.

The History of Biomedical Research

Virtually the entire foundation of our understanding of human physiological processes was based on 1,500 years of animal studies. Since ancient times, animals have been cut apart, alive and with no pain medication or sedation, for the benefit of understanding our own inner workings. Sometimes, this was done under the insane belief that animals were nothing more than robot-like things with no ability to sense pain.

It wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that a significant number of people began to voice their opinions against experimentation on animals and public outcry prompted the start of legal and ethical changes to animal experimentation in the Western world. Further research has shown that not only do animals feel pain, but they also have many psychological processes similar to humans, like those of emotional states of mind.

Our ever-increasing, but still quite sparse, body of knowledge on animal psychological processes is one reason why the field of ethics in biomedical research is an ever-changing field. With every decade, new research proves animals are less like robots and more like humans.


This obviously raises a lot of questions as to the morality of using animals in biomedical research. Many of the things we do to animals in the name of humankind, we would never do to a human, and some are too graphic to even discuss here.

A lot of our experiments on animals can be very harmful and even deadly to these animals. In fact, millions of animals are sacrificed every year for our own selfish needs in biomedical research.

But then we have to consider the many different drugs and vaccines that have been created that have saved millions of human lives around the world. We also have to raise the moral question of, would you rather give up a mouse or your mother? Meaning, would you rather give up a mouse's life to develop a drug that saves your mother, or would you give up your mother's life to save the mouse from suffering?


Regardless of whether you are for, against, or are not sure about the legality or ethics of animal use in research, animals used in research in the U.S. are monitored and regulated by different agencies.

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