Editorial from Journal of Animal Ethics: Leading Animal Ethicists Call for Full Disclosure on Testing
Patients prescribed drugs tested on animals should be told details of
exactly what it involved, including any suffering caused, say some of the
world's leading animal ethicists.
The editors of the Journal of Animal Ethics (JAE), published this month
by the University of Illinois Press, want full disclosure on the nature
of testing used in drug development. They say people should know "not
only whether animals were used, but also what kind, how many were used,
the precise procedures to which they were subject, and the nature and
severity of the pain and suffering, if any, that they had to endure."
The editors point to the comments of Lord Robert Winston, the famous
pioneer of fertility treatment, in a debate on animal experiments in the
House of Lords in the United Kingdom. Lord Winston stated: "I do not
think we can argue that there is any substitute for animal research. Of
course, reduction is possible but I do not think that substitution is . . .
We need to say very clearly that it would be unthinkable to take any drug
which has not been tested on an intact animal. In fact, there is a case
for having legislation to make it clear that a particular drug has only
been possible for human consumption because of animal testing. This could
be stamped on the packet, rather like a cigarette packet."
However, they consider Lord Winston's proposal too modest: "Animals are
subject to a whole range of uses in laboratories from the routine testing
of household products, cosmetics (though some limitations have been
placed on this in Europe) including the testing of agricultural products,
poisons, sprays and herbicides, even fire-extinguisher substances. And
that doesn¹t include the use of animals in military experiments. If full
disclosure, based on the right to know, is the position of animal
researchers, and they have nothing to hide, there can be no grounds for
postulating that only medical products should be singled out. Let us know
all the details, the benefits (if any) and also the costs to the animals
In the editorial the authors also call for information about "the way in
which some animal experiments lead to no worthwhile discovery, those
experiments that have impeded medical progress, even how many
animal-tested drugs have been recalled after harming humans." The editors
ask whether we should not all have the right to know "about the
experiments on human animals that have also, directly or indirectly,
contributed to the increase of scientific knowledge as well as drugs and
vaccines?" They suggest that Lord Winston may "have overlooked the long
history of experiments on human subjects, including prisoners of war,
enlisted soldiers, people of color, and the mentally challenged. Have
these contributed nothing to medical advances? To take just one example,
what of the early clinical trials of tuberculin treatments on orphan
children that took place in Philadelphia in 1908."
They call for a full disclosure: "Yes, let there be disclosure. Let the
facts and the history be known. Let us not shirk the details. Anything
less may serve particular interests but is less than the full disclosure
we have a right to expect."
The JAE has been launched by a US and UK academic partnership with the
goal of widening international debate about the moral status of animals,
and is the result of years of collaboration between the Oxford Centre for
Animal Ethics and the University of Illinois Press. It is edited by the
internationally known theologian the Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey,
Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and Professor Priscilla
Cohn, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University and
Associate Director of the Centre.
Multidisciplinary in nature and international in scope, the JAE covers
theoretical and applied aspects of animal ethics.
To subscribe to the Journal, please visit the Journal's website.