Animal Research and Demonstrating Animal Sentience

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Animal Research and Demonstrating Animal Sentience

From Humane Research Council (HRC)

How should animal advocates react to animal-based scientific experiments if we think the findings can help animals? Should we speak out against the studies and refuse to cite them or should we make use of them with the intent and hope that the animals will not have suffered in vain? It’s a particularly relevant question for HRC because we cover such a breadth of research studies in our database, which includes well over a hundred public opinion and behavior studies that relate to animal testing.


One item we recently added to the database prompted this discussion among the HRC team. Specifically, researchers from Canada and the Netherlands recently published an article entitled, “Coding of Facial Expressions of Pain in the Laboratory Mouse.” As the name implies, the study involved intentionally harming mice and coding their responses to create a “mouse grimace scale.” HRC’s internal dialog highlighted the pluses and minuses of including such research in our database.

On one hand, the underlying study is obviously deplorable and intensely cruel. On the other hand, making animal advocates aware of the research can be useful by providing an example of the inhumane nature of animal research as well as the sentience of mice. This latter point was the clincher for HRC; we chose to include the research because it makes abundantly clear the level to which mice are sentient and capable of pain and suffering despite being used extensively in laboratory research.

However, we also decided that database entries like this probably warrant providing a disclaimer to ensure that HRC’s position on animal research is clear. Especially with a name like the “Humane Research Council,” which of course refers to social marketing research for animals, we thought it best to avoid any confusion. Following is the language we’re using:

Note that this research study is based at least in part on experiments on animals. HRC does not condone or endorse any animal research; we post this item (and others like it) with the hope that these findings can assist advocates in their work to help animals. For a description of how we select items for the database, please click here.
We’d like to hear your thoughts. Going back to our original question, how should animal advocates react to animal-based scientific experiments if we think the findings can be helpful? Should items like the research study mentioned above be included in HRC’s database and/or utilized in any way by animal advocates?