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However, the fact that sentient animals have interests means that they are plausible candidates to be covered by a principle of nonmaleﬁcence; what we do to animals matters to them.
While animals in research are often killed because the experiment requires it (e.g., because tissues are needed for postmortem examination) or because the animals are simply no longer needed, some animals are killed because the experiment involves the inﬂiction of harm causing intractable suffering.
For this subgroup of animals, it should not be assumed that because their death releases them from suffering, it is therefore not harmful.
While the fundamental ethical issues arising in animal research are the same regardless of the country in which it is performed, considering such research in the global context does highlight a few speciﬁc ethical issues concerning its practice and regulation.
For clariﬁcation, “research” and “experimentation” will be used interchangeably in this entry, as will “moral” and “ethical.” Because an individual must be conscious in order to have morally relevant interests (i.e., to care about what happens to it) (Singer 2002), this analysis will focus on research using sentient (i.e., conscious) nonhuman animals, which would include almost all animal species used in research.
As concerns humans, while there are sometimes exceptions to this principle (e.g., harms in self-defense), nonmaleﬁcence is generally acknowledged as a strict principle, with exceptions being very limited.
For present purposes, it should be emphasized that scientiﬁc research is not typically regarded as a legitimate exception, and acceptable risk or harm in humansubjects research (particularly non-beneﬁcial research) is very limited.
The moral relevance of harm to animals in research derives from the relevance of harm to morality more generally.
Essentially all ethical theories, as well as common morality, embrace a principle of nonmaleﬁcence, which holds that we ought not to harm others (harm being generally deﬁned as setting back another’s interests or making them worse off).
Rather, they are harmed by their death as compared to how they would have fared had humans not caused the harm of intractable suffering, which is what makes the release of death seem “merciful” (some philosophers describe this as “subjunctive harm”).
This point has important implications for research.