Morals and Ethics in Lab Animals Research

Animal experiments should only be carried out when there is absolute need of knowledge that will be useful for saving or prolonging life or alleviate suffering.
Morals and Ethics in Lab Animals Research
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Animal research has a crucial contribution to a large number of scientific advances and continues to aid our understanding.

Mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits are the most commonly used experimental animals for study in health and disease because of their easy adaptability to changing environments, low nutritional requirements and higher reproductive rates.

Animal models have been employed in experimental research to enhance human knowledge and subscribe to finding solutions to various biological and biomedical challenges. Most laboratory animals have the same set of organs via heart, lungs, liver, etc which work in the same way as they do in humans. Animals can be used role models for safety testing of chemicals and drugs, study of genetic disorders, development of new diagnostic tests for diseases in biology and medical education.

However, increased concern for the welfare of the animals used, and a growing awareness of the concept of animal rights, has brought a greater focus on the related ethical issues. It is important to note that animal experimentation requires ethical considerations which are necessarily to be kept in mind prior to any scientific interests. Researchers must have a complete understanding of the animal model being used, and of the biology and behaviour of that specie.

Animal experiments should only be carried out when there is absolute need of knowledge that will be useful for saving or prolonging life or alleviate suffering. Transparency of the research findings and sharing the data and materials from all animal experiments is important in order to not repeat the same experiments on animals.

Researchers who work & handle live animals are required to have adequately and updated documentation expertise on all animals. Reduction, refinement and replacement are the three basic principles to be understood before carrying animal oriented experimentations. Replacement of animal experimentation with alternative methods such as mathematical models, computer simulation and in vitro biological systems, which replace or complement the use of animals must be considered before embarking on any procedure involving use of animals. By reduction it means to use reduced number of animals in research that can be achieved by proper planning of experiments and correct analysis of significance of results. When we talk of refinement it strictly encompass measures that avoid animal suffering by application of non invasive techniques, use of anaesthetic, analgesics, provision of comfort, proper handling and adequate care to animals. Animal comfort again as an essential part as far as animal ethics is concerned so the maintenance facilities of animals must be accurately designed, constructed, equipped and maintained to access a quality standard of animal care. Provision for proper veterinary care using appropriate procedures to control diseases (e.g. vaccination and other prophylaxis, isolation and quarantine), diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries and routine observation of all animals to evaluate their health and well being must be taken care. All the surgical procedures either minor or major need to be strictly undertaken under the supervision of an expert. Prior to beginning of any research programme on animals the most important responsibilities of researchers in an animal experiment are pain minimization and distress to animals, prevent unacceptable study end points i.e death as an end-point is often ethically unacceptable and should be fully justified. When death cannot be avoided, the procedures must be designed to result in the deaths of as few animals as possible, avoid repeated use of animals in experiments, minimize duration of experiments, using appropriate euthanasia (euthanasia chamber method), proper planning of pre-operative and surgical procedures, and post-operative care.

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The ethical guidelines have facilitated better care and management of animals, decreasing degree of animal suffering, reduction in number of animal used, the accuracy of results and many developments in various aspects of laboratory animal science. Humane consideration for the well being of the animal should be envisaged into the design and conduct of all procedures involving animals. Animal research had a key role in many scientific and medical advances of the past century and continues to support our comprehensions about various diseases. Welfare of the animals being used, the scientific validity of the selected species and number of animal’s to be used are some important things to be kept in mind for laboratory animal management. In the end, ethics in animal experimentation is an essential part to prevent any undue animal suffering and pain, ethical committees need to be reviewed and made mandatory functional to examine the details of research on animals to be conducted and to ensure animal comfort. Results can be generated by animal testing is a fact that will be useful for treating disease in humans. However, the use of non human subjects for biomedical research still forms an area of intense debate.

Dr. Mohsin Ali Gazi is Veterinary officer Govt. Medical College Srinagar.

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