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Ethical issues in research with non-human animals in psychology

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Introduction

Using relevant examples, explain why ethical issues are important in research with non-human animals in psychology Psychologists do research to learn more about behaviour and how knowledge of behaviour can be used to advance the welfare of people and animals. Although much research in psychology uses human subjects, research with animal subjects continues to be essential in answering some fundamental questions. About 7-8% of psychological research involves the use of animals. Although the range of species that have been used in various studies in psychology is broad, 90% of the animals used have been rodents and birds. Only 5% of the animals used are monkeys and other primates. Studies typically use animals when time requirements, risk, the need to control behavioural history, or other conditions make it impossible to use humans or when there are other practical or ethical reasons not to use humans. ...read more.

Middle

Many safeguards exist to assure that laboratory animals receive humane and ethical treatment. One of the most significant are the guidelines set by the British Psychological Society (BPS). BPS had its first review of such legislation in 1986, named The Animals Act 1686, for the first time in over a hundred years. It is the duty of all animal researchers to be familiar with the most recent legislation and abide by it. Within these guidelines, BPS covers many essential topics within the area of animal research which try to ensure a certain degree of protection of the non-human animals involved. Guidelines such as no endangered animals should be avoided, unless part of a conservation programme, and that minimum numbers of animals are involved. Ethical issues are taken into consideration by stating that if it is necessary that animals should be confined/stressed in anyway the experimenter must ensure that the means justify the ends, like a cost benefit analysis. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although various ethical guidelines are now in order to safeguard these animals many still argue that the involvement of animals at any level should be band. Various alternatives to research with animals have been proposed, including the use of plants and tissue cultures and the use of computer simulations. In fact, all who do research with animals are required, legally and ethically, to consider the possibility of using alternatives to nonhuman animals. However, alternatives are often unavailable or inadequate. Plants lack a nervous system and therefore cannot be used to learn about psychological phenomena. Tissue cultures cannot develop depression, alcoholism, autism or other psychologically relevant problems. Overall it is evident that despite various pressure groups fighting against the use of animals in psychological research, many safeguards are in place to justify tests and protect animals. This is a fair compromise as animal testing continues to gain additional information to the field of psychology that would be unable to do so using human participants. ...read more.

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