Normative Dilemmas in Sweden's Ethical Review Policy for Animal Experiments
Animal experimentation is a contentious ethical issue. In many countries, the debate over the morality of animal research has led to the institution of ethical review systems for animal experiments. This article discusses and problematizes the current regulations, policies, and recommendations governing the ethical review of animal experiments in Sweden. It is argued that the ongoing paradigm shift in society’s view of animals prompts a serious re-evaluation of the values underpinning the routine use of sentient nonhumans animals in research. Following from this, two lines of argument are pursued in the article. First, I make the claim that the organizational and administrative exigencies of the current ethical committee system in Sweden is likely to work to the animals’ disadvantage and undermine a fair assessment of their interests. Second, and more importantly, I reconstruct the utilitarian principles that the ethical review is supposed to be based on and argue that the reasons given for choosing utilitarian standards are undeveloped and reveal an justifiable speciesist bias. Moreover, I argue that even if we should accept these principles, the existing ethical review system would fail to meet the demands of a consistent utilitarian calculus, mainly due to its outdated understanding of how animal models work and what they allow us to predict.