Bioethics Blogs

An Animal Bioethicist in Seattle

Andrew Fenton voices concerns about invisible unnecessary harm to non-human animals and a cost of ethical inconsistency.


I recently had the pleasure of attending the 10th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Seattle, Washington. It was an interdisciplinary affair, with lots of scientists as well as philosophers, bioethicists, and representatives from various animal advocacy groups. The sessions I attended were interesting and it was great to see so many, involved in the use, care, or defense of animals used in science under one roof (and engaging each other!). It’s a hazard of our vocation as bioethicists to keep an eye out for incongruities. One jumped out at me. Let me set it up so that it jumps out at you too.

The World Congress, which began to meet way back in 1993 in Baltimore, Maryland, is geared toward the “3Rs” of animal research and facilitates discussions of breakthroughs, advances, failures of this research, as well as of research ethics. What are the 3Rs? In order of appearance in popular animal ethics framework (found in Russell and Burch’s 1959 book, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique), they are: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. Replacement concerns replacing sentient animals currently used in particular areas of testing or research with either animals who are less vulnerable to harm or non-sentient animals (such as insects) or models (such as tissue cultures or computer simulations). Reduction concerns reducing the number of sentient animals used in particular studies or protocols. Refinement concerns minimizing or eliminating scientifically unnecessary or unavoidable distress in the sentient animals used in testing or research.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.