ASSOCIATES (vol. 8 no. 2, November 2001) -

Animal Experimentation: A Guide To The Issues

by Vaughan Monamy

Cambridge, UK ; New York, NY ; Melbourne Australia
: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 110 p.
ISBN 0 521 66093 9 hardback
ISBN 0 521 66786 0 paperback

Book Review


Sylvia Skene
Library Technician
Advanced Education Media Acquisitions Centre
Langara College
Vancouver, B.C. Canada

One of the most difficult issues facing society today is how we treat animals in our care. Many advances in human and non-human medicine, psychology, physiology, zoology and other fields of study would not have been possible without the use of animal subjects for experimentation. However, like in farming, people are more aware and concerned about the living conditions and treatment of animals in study, and angered and distressed if they are maltreated or even used. It is difficult to effectively articulate and qualify the arguments both for and against animal experimentation without a thorough knowledge of the history, issues, and development of current legislation, practices and philosophies around this touchy subject. And it is especially difficult for the life science student, who will have to at some time deal with animals in the course of studies, to decide where in this debate he or she stands ethically, and what kind of obligations he or she has because of it.

Vaughan Monamy has bravely stepped into the fray with a slim, well-written volume that reviews the subject. A lecturer in environmental science and ethics at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, he first published parts of this text in 1996 as a student guide, with the help of the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART). While traces of the original guide exist, especially in the straightforward language and the ethical guidelines for Australasian students, this book will be of value to any student, new researcher, or layman concerned with the issues.

Monamy divides his book into five main chapters: A history of animal experimentation; Opposition to animal experimentation; The moral status of animals; Animal use and the regulation of experiments; and, Seeking alternatives. His introductory chapter, Issues in animal experimentation, outlines the aims, focus, and scope of the book, and states the "three Rs" of modern research (William Russell and Rex Burch, 1959, as outlined by Monamy):

* a replacement of animals in research, which follows on from an active development of alternatives;
* a reduction in the numbers of animals used in experiments;
* a refinement of laboratory and field techniques to reduce invasiveness and/or to increase the value of the results. (p. 5)

This gives the focus for the rest of the book: it seeks to explain what led up to acceptance of the "three Rs" and other guidelines in animal research and scientific study, as a basis for the reader to decide where on this continuum he or she lies.

To begin, the chapter on the history of animal experimentation includes not only the use of animals in early experiments and demonstrations (some of them quite horrific), but also the reasons and prevailing philosophies behind the treatment of animals, including Christianity and humanism, and a list of medical advances made because of research using animals. In the next chapter, Monamy outlines the history of opposition to animal experimentation in Britain, starting first with professional physiologists, writers and poets, utilitarian philosophers, and others. He then identifies some of the key figures credited with changing attitudes and practices, including Queen Victoria, who as princess was a patron of the early SPCA. He also introduces organizations that lobbied for and against animal experimentation, and touches on the main legislation that resulted.

The review having arrived at the twentieth century, Monamy then changes focus to the United States, where there was much less opposition to this type of research than in other countries until the 1960s. At that time, Life magazine published two exposes on the harsh treatment of stray dogs sold for experiments, featuring in the first one a Dalmatian called Pepper. Following public outcry, the Animal Welfare Act and other legislation were drafted and amended, and regulatory bodies were set up. Monamy outlines many of the seminal publications and protests that followed, including Australian philosopher Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation (1975). In the next chapter, Monamy discusses the moral history of the thoughts and emotions surrounding the use and treatment of animals in research. He asserts that moral arguments based only on reason are just as flawed as those based only on emotion. He spends time discussing the humanist viewpoint, Singer's "animal interests," and Tom Regan's "animal rights," and outlines both the strengths and weaknesses of "reasoned" arguments. He does the same for Albert Schweitzer's principle of "reverence for life" (actually the German word "ehrfurcht," which apparently translates more accurately as a combination of reverence, ultimate respect, and "a sense of the numinous" as in religious feeling), and the idea of moral stewardship.

In the chapter called Animal use and the regulation of experiments, Monamy outlines the variety of ways animals are used in research, some relatively benign and others more controversial, such as fundamental and applied biological research, behavioral research, and product testing. He goes on to contrast the regulatory systems in Britain (centralized), the United States (self-regulated), and Australia/New Zealand (enforced self-regulation). The next chapter talks about the various strategies that scientists have developed to reflect the "three Rs," including using less- or non-sentient organisms, in-vitro (in-glass) techniques, and the use of non-biological replacements. He then illustrates the complexity and ambiguity of the benefits of animal research with a case study: the thalidomide tragedy. He also outlines and adds to a list J.A. Smith and K.M. Boyd (1991) suggested for researchers to use to assess their proposed methods when using animals (p. 83), as well as insisting on peer review and statistical analysis before any experiment can be put forward for funding. Monamy finishes the chapter with ideas for refining an experiment to include improved animal husbandry, using drugs to alleviate pain and distress, and finding less severe endpoints to successfully conclude an experiment.

Monamy calls his conclusion "The construction of a modern research institution." He outlines his hope for the students who are the next generation of scientists to always respect the animals and their sacrifice first and foremost in any study or research they do, wherever they stand in respect to animal experimentation. He again urged readers to make up their own minds, and refers the reader throughout his book to a bibliography in the back for a more extensive study of the issues involved.

What impressed me the most about this book was that in addition to being quite readable, it did not fall into the trap of being too sentimental or too analytical about animal experimentation, while still acknowledging the importance of empathy, respect and due care in interacting with any animal.

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