Two days after an animal rights group criticized the University of Wisconsin-Madison for its treatment of research animals, the university held a previously scheduled forum on the ethics behind animal research.
Before the forum began, associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine Eric Sandgren introduced the forum and discussed the recent allegations made against UW-Madison by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Sandgren said after checking into all of the complaints waged by PETA, none of the accusations were correct.
The forum featured Dr. Lori Gruen, author of “Ethics and Animals: An Introduction” who presented on the different interpretations of ethics behind research, followed by a response from associate professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health Robert Streiffer.
During her presentation, Gruen discussed the need to decide if the research not only had potential medical benefits, but also if the benefits outweigh the costs to the animal.
“Whatever suffering is caused, whatever costs are approved, the benefits have to be greater,” Gruen said.
Gruen drew on previous animal research programs, mostly programs involving chimpanzees, to illustrate examples of the scientific benefits not outweighing the costs.
“Most animals have the same valuable features [as humans], and we disvalue those features in them and in ourselves if we go forward in that way,” Gruen said. “Sometimes even when you think what you are doing is going to be beneficial, it’s not going to be beneficial.”
Streiffer stressed the need for a calculation to be done before each research project, adding up every possible medical benefit against every possible cost to animals to ensure that only the projects with real medical benefit will go forward.
Vet student Cynthia Wise, who attended the forum, said the topic was important because it creates necessary conversations to raise awareness of the ethical decisions behind animal research.
“I feel as a veterinarian, it’s part of our profession to be informed [about animal research] and be able to educate and if I am not informed then I don’t think I can speak about it,” Wise said.