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Few would disagree with the ethical contention that if cruelty to animals is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. In fact, it is not only wrong, but in most states in the us, it is a crime, a felony no less. And yet, intentionally inflicting pain and suffering upon animals, which meets Webster’s definition of cruelty, is routinely countenanced when vivisection (from the Latin vivi, to be alive, and secare, to cut) is performed under license for biomedical research. Deciding to embrace, or reject, or limit animal research demands our best ethical judgment; and it is complicated by factual disputes over the extent to which it benefits human health. Three issues combining facts and ethics need to be considered. First, to what extent does animal research deliver on its promise to improve human health? Second, if the goal of public investment (e.g., tax dollars spent by the National Institute of Health, nih) on animal research is to improve human health, are we getting sufficient return for the billions spent, or might the money be better directed towards human-based research or implementing healthcare interventions of proven efficacy? Third, since opinions about ends justifying means will vary, who should decide if animal research is ethically justified: the scientists who perform it or representatives of the public at large, who pay for it?


open access book chapter