Using language to find if Australian Animal Ethics Committees use emotion or ethics to assess animal experiments


In Australia, the ethics of the use of animals for scientific purposes are assessed by Animal Ethics Committees (AECs) that are comprised of the four major parties involved in the animal experimentation debate: veterinarians, scientists using animals, animal welfare representatives and members of the public. AECs are required to assess animal experiments as ethical based on a cost/benefit analysis, suggesting the use of consequentialist ethics. However, people are more likely to use a mixture of frameworks when making ethical decisions. Therefore, we hypothesised that AEC members will make their decisions using argumentation relying on multiple frameworks, including ethical relativism, deontology and emotional ethics; frameworks commonly used in the public debate about animal experimentation. The language used by AEC members, examined using discourse analysis techniques, can indicate which ethical frameworks they rely upon. Using a role playing method, representatives from each of the four AEC categories discussed the ethical value of eight fictional protocols involving animal experimentation. The discussions were recorded and analysed using Nvivo for instances of emotional and ethical language. Data were analysed using ANOVAs and Tukey tests. Emotional language was more common than ethical language (p


Abstract only, animal ethics, language, emotions, animal experimentation, science, animal ethics committees


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The author:

Dr Laura D'Olimpio