Animal Rights and Experimentation: A Review of Literature


#Animals are often used in scientific research and experimentation. The use of animals in this manner has sparked a lot of debate on its justifiability. While some sociologists and researchers argue that the process benefits humans, others suggest that it is against animal rights. Researchers who support the use of animals in scientific research suggest that the process brings such benefits as advancement of knowledge and improved disease diagnosis. This report provides a synthesis and comparison of various articles that address the issue of animal rights and experimentation. The synthesis attempts to find the similarities and differences of five articles in terms of their sociological theories, methods, findings and policy implications. The synthesis also highlights how the articles provide direction for future research.

Literature Review

The article “Mortal love: Care Practices in Animal Experimentation” by Tora Holmberg addresses the following research questions: what is the relationship between animals and humans in feminist terms? How do laboratory workers handle dilemmas in talk and practice? These questions are related to the questions raised in other articles in this synthesis. For example, the second question relates to the question raised by Michael (1994). Michael (1994) attempts to answer the question: what are the opinions of scientists on animal experimentation?
This question relates to the second question of this article which asks about how laboratory workers may handle dilemmas in talk and practice.

In terms of theoretical perspective, Holmberg (2011) addresses the theoretical framework of care, love and dependency. In this case, the empathy and affection for animals are considered as important aspects of experimentation ethos. The article also explains about “killing well”, which means that animals should be killed quickly and compassionately through careful measurement of the body, personal skills, and technological prowess. The feminist ethics of care for animals is also explained as a means of achieving human-animal relationship through activities such as experimentation. In this case, attention to the suffering of individual animal is important in achieving the feminist ethics of care. This theoretical perspective relates to the ethical and moral perspective suggested by Roten & Crettaz (2008). The ethical and moral perspective in the article of Roten & Crettaz (2008) suggests that the attitude towards nature requires humans to take care of their environment, including animals. This agrees with the feminist ethics of care suggested by Holmberg (2011).

The finding of the article is that the exploitation, instrumentalization and care for animals are aspects that occur within experimental human-animal relations. Therefore, emotions in animal experimentation are not the indication of justification for the harm and killing performed, but rather a demonstration of the human-animal relations involved in the experimentation. The article suggests that animals are not outside our relations, but they are part of our moral love. This finding is similar to the findings of Frey (2002) which suggests that animals should be treated like humans; so if humans cannot be used in scientific research so shouldn’t animals.

The methodology used is literature review which involves an analysis of secondary research on feminist theory and animal studies. A primary research is also conducted involving a researcher interviewing respondents on their views about animal killing and experimentation. The primary method of research is similar to the interview methods used in articles 3, 4 and 5. This article is also similar to Frey (2002) in terms of secondary research because they both review past literature on sociology of animal testing.

The article “Justifying Animal Experimentation” by Frey asks the questions: Why should animals be used in experimentation and not humans? What is the impact of using animals in experimentation? The second question of this article is similar to the second question of the first article because they are both concerned with the use of animals in experimentation. The questions are also related to the questions researched in Michael (1994) who attempts to explain the impact of animal act on animal experimentation.

In terms of theory, this article uses the appeal to similarity which suggests that humans have the same characteristics as animals which make them to dislike being used for experiments. Such characteristics include intelligence, self-direction and sentiency. This theory is similar to the emotional theory suggested in Holmberg (2011) because they both argue that human-animal relationship is developed by the same characteristics shared by them. The article also uses Judeo-Christian ethic which suggests that humans enjoy moral rights to be protected from harm. The theory of quality of life is also considered in this article.

The findings of this research are that animals should be used in scientific experiments instead of humans because humans have higher quality of life than animals, and not because experiments are beneficial to humans. Using humans for experiments could still benefit humans. However, it is not morally right to use animals instead of humans, and yet they all have the same characteristics. This perspective is opposed by Michael (1994) in which scientists argue that the public is ethically biased.

The method used in this research is argumentative literature review whereby the author refers to claims and theories of other researchers and analyses them. This is similar to the first article which uses literature review and analysis of theories to provide its position. While this article seems to avoid taking a position in terms of whether it is right to use animals in experiments, the next article clearly indicates that many people do not encourage the use of animals in scientific experiments.

The questions raised the article “Mapping Perceptions of Animal Experimentation: Trend and Explanatory Factors” by Roten, Von & Crettaz, Fabienne include: To what extent is animal experimentation in Switzerland perceived? What are the attitudes of Swiss people over the past ten years towards animal experimentation? These questions on people’s attitudes are related to the questions raised in Paul (1995). The finding of this research is that most people in Switzerland refuse the use of animals for experimentation. Secondly, the attitudes of people have changed to be against animal testing in terms of attitudes towards nature, attitudes towards values, and attitudes towards science. Unlike Frey (2002) which focuses on the argument of whether human beings should be used for experiments, this article focuses on the acceptability of animal experimentation.

The theoretical perspective of this essay focuses on attitudes to nature, science, and values. In terms of attitudes towards environment, people of Switzerland have been found to be pro-environment; hence they disagree with animal testing on the basis of environmental concern. Methodologically, this article primarily focuses on primary research which involved 1,000 face-to-face interviews on people’s perception towards animal experimentation. This is different from the first two articles which mainly dealt with review of past sociology literature. In terms of policy implication, this article suggests that perceptions of animal testing enhances the understanding of the relationship between science and society, and encourages effective analysis of longitudinal data.

The fourth article is, “Us and Them: Scientists’ and Animal Rights Campaigner’s Views of the Animal Experimentation Debate” by Elizabeth Paul which answers the question: what are the views of animal activists and scientists on animal experimentation debate? This question is similar to the questions of Roten & Crettaz (2008) because it deals with the attitudes and perceptions of people towards animal experimentation. However, unlike Roten & Crettaz (2008) which focuses on the attitudes of all people, this article focuses on the attitudes of scientists and Animal Rights practitioners. The second question of this article is: what is the psychological attitude towards animal experimentation?

The finding of this article was that most respondents did not agree with animal experimentation. Most of them said that none of the types of animal experiments should be allowed. This reflects the same finding as Roten & Crettaz (2008) because the respondents also indicated a negative attitude towards animal experimentation. Paul (1995) argues that the refusal of animal experimentation is due to the suffering caused by the experimentation. This sentiment was shared by Frey (2002) who argues that animals face the same suffering as humans during experimentation. The two articles also agree that animals and humans have the same sentience and mental capacity to detect and respond to suffering. However, the difference between the two articles in terms of their findings is that Paul (1995) suggests that there is a phylogenetic hierarchy of the capacity of animals to suffer.

The theory of this article is based on the relative capacity of animals to suffer. This agrees with the emotional theory suggested by Holmberg (2011) as well as the appeal to similarity used in Frey (2002). Like Frey (2002), this article suggests that animals have the same characteristics in terms of sentience and mental capacity to feel the effects of suffering. From this theoretical perspective, Holmberg (2011) similarly highlights the similarity between humans and animals whereby both of them have emotional capacity to suffer.

The method used in this article is a survey which involved questionnaires administered on two groups of participants – animal rights campaigners and scientist researchers. The questionnaires included questions concerning beliefs and attitudes on animal experimentation, where to draw lines between animals that suffer and those that do not, arguments for and against animal experimentation, and beliefs on the origin of participants’ views. The responses were represented in tables and analyzed. This method differs from the methods of Holmberg (2011) and Frey (2002) which are mainly literature reviews, but it is similar to the method used in Roten & Crettaz (2008) because they both involve collecting information through survey. The policy implication suggested in this article is that the agreements and beliefs among participants regarding animal experimentation may be used to indicate the areas of the debate that needs to be developed and enhanced in future. This is similar to Roten & Crettaz (2008) by Roten & Crettaz (2008) because they both encourage further studies based on the attitudes and beliefs of the respondents.

Lastly, the article “Accounting for Animal Experiments: Identify and Disreputable “others” by Mike Michael is similar to the second question posed by Frey (2002) – What is the impact of animal act on the experimental health regime? The difference between the two articles is that Frey (2002) focuses on animals in general, but Michael (1994) considers the animal act. The second question was: what are the opinions of scientists on animal experimentation? This question is almost similar to the question of Paul (1995) which asks about the attitudes of scientists on animal experimentation because both questions are aimed at the opinions of scientists on animal testing.

This article presents a socioethical theory which attempts to find out whether it is right or moral to conduct animal experimentation. This theoretical perspective is similar to Frey (2002) by Frey (2002) which considers the ethics and morality of animal experimentation in terms of Judeo-Christian ethic perspective. It also relates to the emotional and feminist perspective suggested in Holmberg (2011) which highlights the importance of feminist ethic and care that creates human-animal relationship of mortal love; one in which animal experimentation may become problematic as suggested by Michael (1994).

In terms of findings, this article indicates that scientists demonstrate that the opponents of animal experimentation are inferior to British scientific practitioners in terms of ethics and epistemology. Among the five articles, this is the only article that has found a problem with those who critique animal experimentation. The British scientific practitioners provide a difference between themselves and “others” including clinicians and experimenters. The difference is that “others” lack the capacity and opportunity to make intellectual clarifications.

The socioethical domain suggests that the “others” are culturally not able to reflect on ethical perspectives as required by the British animal experimentation. The scientists are concerned with how the public criticizes science but does not criticize agriculture. As a result, British Scientists suggest that the public is ethically biased. These findings are different from the findings of the other articles significantly. First, the findings of this article are based on critique of anti-animal-experimentation rather than providing views on the issue as provided by the other articles. This article defends the practices of scientists using animal experimentation, compared to the other articles which oppose the practice.

The methodology used involved the use of interviews on 43 people; all scientists. This was a self-selected sample. This is a primary method of data collection similar to the methods used by articles Roten & Crettaz (2008) and Paul (1995). The policy implication highlighted in this article is that the scientists who support animal experimentation tend to cause fears and tension to the public by trivializing them as ethically and epistemologically deficient; hence discouraging participation of the public in the issue of animal experimentation. This is also a unique policy implication as compared to the other four articles because it presents pessimism in terms of the debate on animal experimentation.


The debate on animal experimentation has elicited several studies which show varying results. The five articles highlighted here have several differences and similarities in terms of theoretical framework, methodology, findings, research questions, and policy implications. Holmberg (2011) and Michael (1994) use similar theories about feminist ethics and human-animal relations. Michael (1994) is the only different article in terms of findings because it suggests that opponents of animal experimentation are ethically biased. The other four articles oppose the use of animals in scientific experimentation.


References list

Frey, R G. (2002). Justifying Animal Experimentation. Society, 39(6), 37-47.

Holmberg, Tora. (2011). Mortal love: Care practices in animal experimentation. Feminist   Theory, 12(2), 147-163.

Michael, Mike. (1994). Accounting for Animal Experiments: Identify and Disreputable “others”. Science, Technology, and Human Values, 19(2), 189-204

Paul, Elizabeth S. (1995). Us and Them: Scientists’ and Animal Rights Campaigner’s Views of    the Animal Experimentation Debate. Society & Animals, 3(1), 1-21.

Roten, Von & Crettaz, Fabienne. (2008). Mapping Perceptions of Animal Experimentation:          Trend and Explanatory Factors. Social Science Quarterly, 89(2), 537-549.

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