Animal Research Ethics: Is Directive 2010/63/EU Speciesist?


Animal rights defenders criticise the Directive 2010/63/EU for at least three objections: experimentation with higher species is not as necessary as the authors seem to assume; even if we accept that it is necessary from a scientific point of view, it would be morally unacceptable; even while it may be necessary from a scientific point of view and morally acceptable, there are no relevant reasons for using apes in experimentation instead of those human beings whose moral status could hardly be considered superior to apes. This article seeks to demonstrate that those objections are not acceptable. Hence, it especially focuses on the third one, assessing that the preference for animals as objects of research is not speciesist discrimination. It is stated that this preference is simply the consequence that is given by the need to ensure the application of the moral criterion highlighted: the maximisation of happiness.

Key Concepts:

  • Speciesism involves the assignment of different values, rights or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership.

  • Directive 2010/63/UE has been considered speciesist as far as it settles an unfair discrimination between animals and marginal human beings.

  • This critique is built on the basis of the argument from marginal cases.

  • This argument tries to demonstrate that it is unfair to treat human beings and animals in a different way as far as at least some of them share the same moral value.

  • Marginal human beings are those who are not moral agents due to a lack of a morally relevant quality, such as rationality.

  • The argument from marginal cases does not work in the case of research with animals as far as our preferences are not based on a species prejudice.

  • The use of animals instead of marginal human beings can be justified on the basis of a utilitarian argument.

Keywords: animal research; speciesism; Directive 2010/63/EU; intrinsic value; marginal human beings; three Rs principle; argument from marginal cases; biomedical research; utilitarianism

Figure 1.

Is it a human or an animal embryo? Or is it a human–animal hybrid embryo? Then, what about its fate? Image from somersault18:24



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Further Reading

Carbone L (2004) What Animals Want: Expertise and Advocacy in Laboratory Animal Welfare Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Conn PM and Parker JV (2008) The Animal Research War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

De Miguel Beriain I (2009) Derechos para los animales? Dilemata 1: 15–31.

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Frey RG (2005) Animals and their medical use. In: Cohen AI and Wellman CH (eds) Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, pp. 91–103. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

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Illman J (2008) Animal Research in Medicine: 100 Years of Politics, Protest and Progress. The Story of the Research Defence Society. London: Research Defence Society.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2005) The ethics of research involving animals. Available at: (accessed on 21 Feb 2014).

Regan T (2005) Empty cages: animals rights and vivisection. In: Cohen AI and Wellman CH (eds) Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, pp. 77–90. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

Russell WMS and Burch RL (1959) The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. London: Methuen.

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De Miguel Beriain, Iñigo, and Jorqui Azofra, María(May 2014) Animal Research Ethics: Is Directive 2010/63/EU Speciesist?. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024190]