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The Use of Animals for Research on Animal Diseases: Its Impact on the Harm–Benefit Analysis


Michael D. Rickard

The use of animals in scientific experiments is sometimes controversial. Usually, the debate focuses on the advantages or disadvantages of using animals in biomedical research or for testing products for safety or efficacy in humans. This has been the case in the previous World Congresses on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences. Such studies can be subjected to a harm–benefit analysis that attempts to assess the expected benefits of the research to be done in relation to the harm done to the experimental animals. This paper suggests that studies carried out in the target species offer a higher level of fidelity and discrimination (confidence in the proper expression of the disease and greater ability to detect the impacts of any treatments under investigation) than do experiments carried out in animal models of a different species. A number of examples are given to show the benefits that have accrued to the welfare of domesticated animals through research on the diseases from which they suffer. These examples suggest that there will be an ongoing need to use animals in research to develop methods for the control or eradication of newly emergent diseases.