Humans use animals in many ways – as beasts of burden, pets, food, for sport and for experiments. Involving animals in experiments is, arguably, our most contentious use of animals. Animal experiments raise difficult moral, ethical and welfare questions, as well as scientific and legal issues. Such questions can also apply to other interactions that we have with animals, but this is of less societal interest. The central idea of animal experiments is that to understand the biology of animals we need to go beyond observation and experiment on them.
Animal experimentation has had a long history in scientific and medical research. A very great deal has been learnt from these experiments, though this has probably been at the expense of considerable suffering to a great many animals, especially in more distant times. Persistent public concern for animal welfare and for the utility of animal experiments has pressured governments to legally control experiments, resulting in generally strict legislation in most industrialised, western countries. Notwithstanding these developments, there are still polarized arguments for and against animal experiments, though there is rather little considered debate. The aim of this proposed workshop and forum is to debate these issues.