Animal Experiments in Research

I. The importance of animal experiments for research

Number of laboratory animals: Germany and Europe

Animal experiments are conducted, inter alia, to investigate physiological processes, develop products and therapeutic techniques and verify product safety.

With an increase in research, the amount of animals used in Germany has remained fairly constant since 2014 (ca. 2.8 million). Current statistical data regarding the numbers of animals used for scientific purposes in Germany in 2018 have been gathered by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and were published in 2019. 

Out of the 2,825,066 vertebrates and cephalopods which have been used for scientific purposes in 2018 roundabout 2.1 million have been used in animal experiments, whereas almost 700,000 animals got killed for scientific purposes without prior intervention. With a share of 44 % of the total number of laboratory animals, most animals in 2018 were used in biological basic research. Since great apes have no longer been used for experimental purposes in Germany since 1991, rodents and fish are the most commonly used animals for scientific purposes; in 2018 they constituted about 92 % of the total number of animals used. By far the most frequently utilized animal species for scientific purposes are mice with a share of approximately 72 % of all animals used in 2018. Weighty reasons for this big share are housing conditions, short successive generations and the growing use of transgenic mice. Another reason is the decoding of genomes: Not only the human genome, but also the mouse genome has been decoded completely. Mice and rats together make up the largest group of laboratory animals both in Germany and in the European Union.

According to information provided by the European Commission in 2019, almost 9.4 million animals have been used in 2017 for scientific experiments in EU Member States. Compared to the data of 2016 (ca. 9.8 million animals), this amounts to a decline of 4.5 %. In 2017, dogs, cats and non-human primates constituted less than 0.3 % of the laboratory animals used for the first time in the European Union. Since Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals took effect in 2010, experiments on great apes are prohibited in the member states of the European Union.

Furthermore, with Directive 2010/63/EU coming into effect in 2010 and the Commission Implementing Decision 2012/707/EU, the registration of animal experiments has been standardized within the European Union. Hereby, the statistics provided by the European Commission in 2019 have realigned the transmission and publication of laboratory animal data. The EU member states have already adjusted the transmission of laboratory animal numbers to the new standards in 2015; thus, their statistical surveys document amongst others additional animal species and life-forms (e. g. cephalopods and fetuses) as well as the severity of procedures since. Moreover, the scope of the previous directive has been extended to include the use of animals in basic research and routine production. The term "routine production" refers to the basic permission of killing animals in the context of chemicals tests or drug approvals.

Alternative methods

Animal experiments can be replaced with alternative methods in a variety of areas. For example, numerous experiments are currently performed on cell cultures. By way of differentiation from experiments on living organisms (in vivo) such "test tube" methods are referred to as in vitro. Computer simulations may also serve as a substitute for the use of laboratory animals, since they help to predict how substances will act on the body. The extent to which alternative methods may replace animal experiments in the near future is a matter of some controversy. At least in the field of cosmetics research it is envisaged that safety testing on animals will be completely replaced by alternative test methods. Researchers point out, however, that even in the future it will not be possible to entirely do away with animal experiments - especially when it comes to testing pharmaceutical products: the complexity of an intact organism is necessary in order to verify all the effects of a substance. In the fields of neurobiological fundamental research and of research in infectious diseases, for instance, research with non-human primates is still irreplaceable at the current moment, according to several researchers.

Applicability of the results of animal experiments

It is only since the advent of the modern era that animal experiments have been conducted on a significant scale. Since then a broad-ranging debate has raged on the acceptability of animal experiments. From the very outset of the debate, opponents of animal experiments have asserted that the insights yielded by animals cannot be applied to humans and are therefore largely useless. This criticism is directed both at the findings of basic research (e.g. the "mouse model") and at the results of drug tests performed on animals (see Section II). At issue was - and still is - the question of whether different species (such as human and mouse) react to the same substances in the same way on account of the structural and functional similarity of many organs or whether the effect of substances on organisms is more heavily species-specific. Were the latter to be the case, animal testing of substances would, for example, offer only an illusory sense of safety. History lends support to both standpoints: on several occasions the results of animal experiments have misled scientists into formulating incorrect research hypotheses (e.g. in research into poliomyelitis (polio) or lulled them into a false sense of security when testing product safety (as in the case of Contergan (thalidomide)) In other cases the effects observed in animal experiments did prove to be applicable to humans. The German Research Foundation (DFG), the central self-governing organisation that promotes research in Germany, estimates that animal experimentation can predict "desirable and roughly 70 % of undesirable effects on humans" (DFG (2004): Tierversuche in der Forschung. Bonn: Lemmens Verlags- und Mediengesellschaft, 2004: 18).

II. Legal aspects of research on animals

Pursuant to Section 7 (2) of the German Animal Welfare Act (Tierschutzgesetz, TierSchG), "animal testing" is understood to be procedures or treatments for experimental purposes on animals or their genetic material if they may involve pain, suffering or harm to these animals, their offspring or carrier animals. Furthermore, the term "animal testing" also includes procedures or treatments that do not serve experimental purposes. They are listed separately in Section 7 (2) sentence 2 and include, among other things, the removal of organs for transplantation purposes.

In 2002, animal protection in Germany was elevated to the status of a so-called state objective (Article 20a of the German Constitution). State objectives do not establish a subjective right and are not enforceable, but, like the fundamental rights, they nevertheless constitute constitutional goods. From a constitutional perspective, this circumstance legitimizes in principle the restriction of freedom of research through animal protection regulations. However, it remains controversial how the existing regulations on the official approval practice of animal testing are to be interpreted after the constitutional amendment, and to what extent animal protection as a state objective can actually restrict the unconditional fundamental right to freedom of research.

Furthermore, on August 13, 2013 the Animal Welfare Ordinance on Laboratory Animals (Tierschutz-Versuchstierverordnung, TierSchVersV) came into force. This ordinance specifies conditions for the protection of laboratory animals (e.g. husbandry conditions) and rules for conducting animal testing.

Switzerland and Luxembourg are so far the only countries in the world that ascribe dignity to animals and thereby place them directly under constitutional protection. This is intended to give greater emphasis to the intrinsic value of animals and to highlight the need for a responsible approach to animals.

1. Restriction and prohibition of animal testing

The permissibility of animal testing is limited in Section 7a (1) TierSchG to particular purposes for which animal testing must be indispensable. This includes, for example, research into the treatment of diseases, protection of the environment or testing the safety of pharmaceuticals and foods.

Pursuant to Section 7 (1) sentence 3 TierSchG, animal testing may only be carried out by persons who have the "necessary knowledge and skills" for this purpose. Section 9 (1) sentence 1 states that the necessary knowledge and skills may be determined by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, BMEL) with the agreement of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) and the Bundesrat.

The fifth section of the German Animal Welfare Act stipulates the conditions under which animal testing may be carried out and the extent to which they are subject to approval or mere notification. Experiments on vertebrates or cephalopods require a permit from the competent authority. The reservation of approval is anchored in Section 8 TierSchG and contains conditions that must be fulfilled for a successful approval. In addition to the indispensability of animal testing, particular attention is paid to the technical qualification of the persons conducting the testing with regard to the handling of laboratory animals and the husbandry conditions of the laboratory animals.
Animal testing which meets the requirements of Section 8a (1) TierSchG and therefore does not require approval, but is merely notifiable, must be distinguished from this. This includes, for example, experimental projects on decapods (Section 8a (3)) as well as animal testing prescribed by law or statutory orders (Section 8a (1) No. 1).

Animal testing is expressly prohibited under German law for certain research objectives, e.g. "for the development or testing of weapons, ammunition and related equipment" (Section 7a (3)). In general, this prohibition also applies to animal testing "for the development of tobacco products, detergents and cosmetics" (Section 7a (4)); however, the law allows approvals in exceptional cases.

Animal testing on great apes (gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos) ceased in Germany as early as 1991. A corresponding legal prohibition was, however, only formulated in the EU Directive 2010/63/EU (see 3.2.2). This prohibition was adopted in Germany in 2013 in Section 23 TierSchVersV. For special exceptional circumstances, Art 55(2) of Directive 2010/63/EU provides for the possibility of approving the use of great apes for experimental purposes under strict conditions.

2. Regulation and requirement of animal testing

Prior to the marketing authorization of certain products, such as medicines or pesticides, distributors must demonstrate that they do not pose a threat to human health and the environment.

There are various directives and regulations at European level that require animal testing as part of substance and process testing and take precedence over national law. EU legislation may therefore require operators to use animals in safety tests, even if national legislation does not demand it.

However, animal testing is also prescribed in various German laws. It is required, for example, in the Law on Protection against Hazardous Substances (Gesetz zum Schutz vor gefährlichen Stoffen, ChemG), the Ordinance on Medical Devices (Verordnung über Medizinprodukte, MPV), the Law on the Protection of Cultivated Plants (Gesetz zum Schutz der Kulturpflanzen, PflSchG) or the Ordinance on Plant Protection Products and Plant Protection Equipment (Verordnung über Pflanzenschutzmittel und Pflanzenschutzgeräte, PflSchMGV).

As many products are sold outside Germany and therefore have to meet the safety standards of other countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issues recommendations on substance testing and sets safety standards for its member states. Safety certificates that have been provided in accordance with OECD standards are accepted in all OECD member states. This avoids repeated safety tests and unnecessary animal testing.

3. European background

Council of Europe: European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals Used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes
In 1986, the Council of Europe adopted the "European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes", which has since been revised by some amending legislation. The Convention is based on the belief that there is a "moral obligation" for humans to "give due consideration" to the "capacity for suffering" and "memory" of animals, but that they must also use animals in their quest for "knowledge, health and safety" (preamble).

The Convention stipulates that animal testing may only be performed for specified purposes. These include the diagnosis and prevention of diseases, clinical research for medicines, environmental protection and basic physiological research (cf. Art. 2). Animal testing may only be carried out for the defined research purposes if it is indispensable for achieving the research objective and no alternative methods are available (cf. Art. 6). EU member states are encouraged to promote research into animal replacement methods (cf. Article 6) so that, over time, more and more animal testing can be replaced by alternative methods. Animal testing that is likely to cause prolonged and significant pain or harm to the laboratory animal is subject to a special approval or notification requirement (cf. Art. 9). In order to avoid unnecessary duplication of experiments in product testing, the contracting parties are also obliged to mutually recognize test results to the greatest extent possible (cf. Art. 29). 

In 2010 a new "Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes" (Directive 2010/63/EU; see 3.2.2) was adopted, which incorporated central requirements of the Convention.

European Union
The EU has only limited powers to legislate on animal welfare: Unlike environmental protection, animal welfare is not a Community objective of the EU and is therefore regulated by the member states under national law. The EU may only adopt animal welfare legislation that is binding on all member states if this prevents barriers to trade and distortions of competition in the European internal market. If different levels of strictness in the keeping of farm and laboratory animals were to apply in different EU countries, businesses from countries with stricter regulations would be disadvantaged due to the higher production and husbandry costs in the common internal market. The EU can address such inequalities and disadvantages by adopting animal welfare legislation that is binding on all member states. However, not all types of animal testing are of such "internal market relevance". Whether or not animal testing is carried out according to EU-wide standards in the context of education and training or in basic university research is, for example, considered irrelevant for the internal market and cannot therefore be regulated by the EU.

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
In the "Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union" (TFEU), the member states of the EU commit themselves "[i]n formulating and implementing the Union's [...] policies, [...] [to,] since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States" (Article 13 Title II TFEU). Although animal welfare is not one of the EU's Community objectives, it has the same relevance as other principles stated under Title II of the TFEU, such as ensuring an adequate level of health protection or promoting gender equality.

Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes
Directive 2010/63/EU ("Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes"), which was adopted by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers and came into force on November 9, 2010, replaces the previously applicable Directive 86/609/EEC. A standardization and harmonization of national legal provisions on animal welfare in research, already provided for in the old Directive, is further advanced by the new Directive. National legislation in the member states should aim to avoid, reduce and improve the use of animals for research purposes (cf. Art. 4). Under Directive 2010/63/EU, cephalopods (such as squid and octopus) are now also taken into account in addition to vertebrates (cf. Art. 1(3)). The areas of basic research, education and vocational training, and forensic inquiries are named as further permissible purposes for conducting animal testing (cf. Art. 5).

Just like the previous Directive, Directive 2010/63/EU provides that member states may, if necessary, issue regulations and laws that go beyond the minimum standard defined by EU regulations. This includes potential provisions on approval procedures for animal testing or on animal welfare-related controls of establishments (cf. Art. 42, Art. 59f.).

The member states of the European Union are obliged by both Directive 2010/63/EU (cf. Art. 4, Art. 46-49) and the corresponding Council of Europe Convention (cf. Art. 6) to promote research to develop alternative methods. Centers for the evaluation of alternative and complementary methods exist at European and national level for this purpose. Avoiding unnecessary duplication of experiments by recycling test certificates from safety tests should also contribute to reducing the number of legally required experiments on animals. At European level, the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM, founded in 1992 provides information material on already established replacement and complementary methods and validates alternative methods. In Germany, the central office for recording and evaluation of alternative and supplementary methods (Zentralstelle zur Erfassung und Bewertung von Ersatz- und Ergänzungsmethoden, ZEBET, founded in 1989) maintains a database of alternative methods to officially prescribed animal testing. The Zentralstelle also tests alternative test methods for their relevance and reproducibility and awards grants for research into alternatives to animal testing.

4. The 3Rs principle

The internationally significant 3Rs principle for the protection of animals in research was coined by William Russell and Rex Burch in their 1959 paper "The Principles of Human Experimental Technique". The three "R" stand for "Replacement", "Reduction" and "Refinement". The aim of the 3Rs principle is to replace animal testing with other methods or procedures (Replacement), to reduce unavoidable pain, suffering and harm and the number of laboratory animals to a necessary minimum (Reduction) and to refine interventions and treatments (Refinement).

The 3Rs principle has become the common reference point for a wide range of organizations and initiatives that seek to avoid animal testing or to improve the conditions for laboratory animals. The 3Rs principle has found its way into the legislation of many EU countries through Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, Article 4 of which requires Member States to adhere to the "principle of replacement, reduction and refinement". With its abbreviation "Bf3R", the German Center for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Deutsches Zentrum zum Schutz von Versuchstieren), newly founded in 2015, refers both to the 3Rs principle and to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). The Bf3R is an integral element of the BfR and supports it through advisory activities for the protection of laboratory animals. The European counterpart to Bf3R is the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL-ECVAM), which is located at the Joint Research Centre (JCR) of the European Commission. The EURL-ECVAM also defines alternative methods to animal testing as those that enforce the 3Rs principle: An experimental procedure therefore represents an alternative to animal testing precisely when it is suitable for replacing experiments on animals, reducing their number or refining them in terms of the suffering they cause.

In 2005, the European Commission entered into a partnership with companies from a range of industrial sectors with the aim of developing alternative methods to animal testing (European Partnership to Promote Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA)). The founding document of the EPAA is the so-called "3Rs Declaration". Since 2013, the EPAA has been awarding 3Rs prizes every two years for special merits in the development of alternative methods.

III. Core questions in the ethical debate

The moral status of animals and humans

The answer to the question of whether animal experiments are ethically acceptable does not rest merely in the fact that for many people (for example for consumers or patients) they are useful, possibly even life-saving. On the contrary, it is necessary to ask whether and to what extent human benefit justifies the suffering and death of animals. This is crucially dependent on the moral status enjoyed by animals in comparison to man.

Different theories provide a variety of answers to the question of on what the moral status of a living organism depends and which living organisms therefore have a different moral status. In this respect differences in status may be presumed both within the human species (for example between an embryo in an early stage of development and a grown human being) and - as is relevant to the present context - with an eye to different species.

The argument surrounding the moral status of animals is illustrated below on the basis of three clearly defined positions and the objections that they provoke:

  1. animals do not have a genuine moral status and are therefore not deserving of protection for their own sake,
  2. all living organisms that have a similar capacity for suffering and are able to develop interests (whether humans or animals) have a comparable moral status and
  3. as a "middle" position, animals have a genuine moral status, although this is subordinate to the moral status of man. 

1. Animals do not have a genuine moral status: they are not deserving of protection for their own sake

The view that man enjoys a special status from the moral standpoint or that humans are the only living creatures with a morally compelling inherent value has various historic roots

If man is the only living creature that "counts from the moral standpoint", he is under no obligation to respect animals: their use or harm does not violate any ethical precepts. Yet even within the framework of such a radically anthropocentric - i.e. human-centred - perspective obligations may be established in relation to animals. In this case, however, obligations do not exist vis-à-vis the animals themselves (since they have no inherent moral value); rather, they are indirect or derived obligations, in other words obligations that man has in relation to animals but which are grounded in man's obligations to himself or to his fellow men.

Justification of the prohibition of cruelty to animals without recourse to an inherent moral status of animals was provided inter alia by Immanuel Kant within the scope of his ethics. Kant's argument is to be found in a chapter of "Metaphysik der Sitten" ("Metaphysics of Morals") (§§ 16-18). Kant does not substantiate the prohibition of animal cruelty on the basis that anyone who torments animals is doing them an injustice, but rather with the assertion that the person responsible for cruelty to animals is weakening himself in his capacity to commit moral acts. He is thus in violation of an obligation that he has to himself. What is more, animal cruelty impairs the ability to empathise with the suffering of others (including other humans). Since this capacity is, however, "very useful" for man's co-existence in a society, anyone who wilfully puts it at risk is in violation of an obligation to his fellow men. Such arguments against animal cruelty are referred to as brutalisation arguments or pedagogical arguments.

The understanding that the rough and cruel treatment of animals is not wrong per se, but only indirectly through the consequences for one's own moral character and the co-existence of mankind, was criticised early on, inter alia by Arthur Schopenhauer. Numerous authors now consider it more plausible to suppose that harm caused to living creatures with a capacity for feeling is morally questionable as such and vis-à-vis the animals themselves. With this in mind they argue that an appropriate treatment of animals is a matter of justice, not compassion. Yet there can only be justice for animals if they have a genuine moral status, in other words a morally obliging inherent value.

2. Animals have their own moral status 

2.1. Animals and humans have a comparable moral status
Two theoretical models have emerged of late asserting that the moral status of humans and of animals with a capacity for feelings and/or interests is identical. These approaches, referred to as the animal interests position and the animal rights position, currently dominate the debate surrounding the appropriate treatment of animals.

2.1.1 Animal interests position
Peter Singer makes the moral status of living organisms dependent upon their capacity to have interests (for example in survival and freedom from pain). All living creatures that have interests in the same way have the same moral status.

This view results in two consequences: an upward revaluation of the moral status of animals capable of having interests and a downward revaluation of the moral status of human organisms that are unable or have a reduced capacity to have interests. Research on human embryos, for example, would no longer pose an ethical problem (since embryos do not yet have an interest in freedom from pain or survival), whereas painful experiments on mice would constitute a serious moral evil. In his book "Animal Liberation" Singer coins the phrase "speciesism" to describe the view that living creatures such as humans and mice with an equal interest in a pain-free existence could have such a different "value" that the one can be used to benefit the other. For Singer speciesism is a form of discrimination, just like racism or sexism: one group of living creatures is disadvantaged by another without the existence of any morally relevant reasons. Speciesism is thus a form of group egoism of mankind directed against non-human creatures.

What are the implications for the field of animal experiments? Singer does not support an absolute ban on animal experiments (in contrast to the proponents of animal rights). Nor does he speak out in favour of an absolute ban on experiments on humans. Due to their self-awareness and awareness of the future (most) people, in Singer's assessment, have a stronger interest than animals in not being misused as research objects. What is more, humans attach significantly greater importance than animals to their own survival on account of their orientation towards the future Based on man's more extensive interests, Singer believes that to a certain extent the use of animals in biomedical experiments is more justified than the use of human subjects. However, Singer is of the opinion that in moral terms experiments conducted on humans who - due to a lack of cognitive and emotional faculties - have a limited capacity to have interests comparable to that of higher animals (for example infants or the severely mentally handicapped) are of an equal status to certain animal experiments.
Singer's position is pathocentric, meaning that he calls for the attribution of an equal moral status to all living creatures with a capacity for feeling. Yet it has long been disputed whether animals are capable of feeling at all and, if so, the extent to which they have this capacity. In the modern era it was widely held that animals were incapable of thinking or feeling

2.1.2 Animal rights
In accordance with the "rights view", as it is referred to by Tom Regan, its founder, the essential quality that a living organism must exhibit in order to be a bearer of rights is its "being the subject of a life". Every living creature with its own individual wellbeing has an inherent value and is therefore not merely a means for foreign ends. To this extent the animal interests position (see above) and animal rights position are similar.
The call for animal rights, however, envisages further-reaching consequences than the call to take account of both animal interests and human interests. In contrast to the animal interests position, the rights position asserts that all living creatures that are the experiencing "subject-of-a-life" should be protected by individual rights. At stake here, then, is the question of whether the concept of rights - as it exists with respect to humans - can and should be extended to parts of the animal world. Were animals to possess individual moral rights like humans, animal experiments would then be ruled out even if they promised an outstanding benefit - just as (forcibly conducted) experiments on humans are unacceptable under all circumstances irrespective of the benefit for the common good. Proponents of a rights position therefore reject animal experiments just as they do the consumption of meat in general.

One of the objections sometimes raised against the rights position is that rights as such only exist as a consequence of their mutual recognition (which animals are not capable of). Why should animals have rights if they lack insight into their significance and the possibility of acting accordingly? Animal rights supporters counter this objection with the "argument from marginal cases": nor do human beings have to be morally capable and rational in order to be the bearers of rights (e.g. infants, severely mentally handicapped persons or coma patients). In these instances the legal profession would ensure protection of their rights.
The call for human rights for anthropoid apes ( is a form of minimal requirement for proponents of the animal rights position and animal interests position. Experiments on primates are generally considered to pose special ethical problems if they could result in an increase in the test animals' mental capacities Special precautionary measures are therefore needed in this case.

2.1.3 Compassion for animals
As the most prominent representative of ethics of compassion, Arthur Schopenhauer, differing from representatives of the animal interests and animal rights position, sets aside the attribution of a moral status. By doing so, compassion ethicists attempt to bypass presuppositions concerning commonly shared values such as human dignity. This is due to the fact that these presuppositions are to constitute moral statuses while they are at the same time not being accepted or cannot be accepted by everyone.

Similar to Singer, for Schopenhauer the circle of such members of a moral community who are worthy of protection is constituted of those beings capable of suffering.  By means of her compassion with other creatures, the human being recognizes the worthiness for protection of the vis-à-vis and the responsibility to protect this vis-à-vis from suffering. Living beings capable of suffering also include animals whose need for protection Schopenhauer nonetheless esteems to be lower than that of the human being. This owes to the fact that a living being’s ability to suffer is dependent upon its intelligence and that it is hence the human being who possesses the highest quality of suffering.

According to this, meat consumption and the keeping of farm animals are legitimate as long as a death free of pain is warranted and the consumption is essential for survival, and, in the second case, the keeping of the animals is not excessive. Schopenhauer generally objects animal experiments, which cause suffering for the animals. Analogously to the justification of meat consumption, he nonetheless allows for animal experiments if they cause almost no pain and are essential for the survival of the human being.  

Based on Arthur Schopenhauer’s theory, Ursula Wolf developed the approach of a generalized compassion as an extension of the ethics of compassion. Apart from values and the assignment of status, this approach is characterized by its attempt to justify rights and obligations for the reduction of suffering.  Schopenhauer had spared a justification of rights and obligations; for him, the basic rules of ethics are derived from compassion.  Wolf, by contrast, derives from compassion duties to protect concerning all living beings capable of suffering; this does, however, only apply to human beings since only human beings have at their disposal the necessary means for reflection for moral action. In comparison to Regans animal rights position, Wolf’s obligations rest on the foundation of compassion, while Regan links rights and obligations to the living beings‘ inherent value.

Those people are members of a moral community who have at their disposal the ability to suffer. The higher dimension of protection of those living beings that have an, at least basal, self-conscience needs to be kept in mind. Overall, Wolf refuses a differentiation in status between humans and animals by not considering the empirical rationales as substantive and by generally regarding all living beings capable of suffering as equally worthy of protection.

Concerning the issue of the legitimacy of animal experiments, the following standpoint arises in Wolf’s argumentation: The higher value of the human being based on empirical facts such as an allegedly higher ability to suffer due to her intelligence is rejected by Wolf as morally irrelevant; according to Wolf, they do not justify a gradation in status and hence no animal experiments which cause suffering to animals.

Similar to proponents of the animal rights position, approaches to the ethics of commission are oftentimes being criticized by means of the argument that moral consideration is only sensible concerning those living beings that are capable of moral consideration; this means that due to their capability, only human beings should be included in the circle of those that are directly worthy of protection. Wolf replies to this point that the specific capability of human beings to moral action should also be applied toward animals exactly because human beings have such capability at their disposal.

2.1.4 Biocentrism
Biocentrism asserts that all living organisms, i.e. not only those capable of having feeling and interests, are morally relevant and deserving of protection for their own sake. Yet the unlimited protection of all life (the life of not only animals and plants, but also bacteria and other single-cell organisms) appears impossible. This may explain why there is hardly any call for unambiguous and radical measures in the context of biocentrism. The most well-known proponent of a biocentric position is Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer himself did not categorically reject animal experiments, but sought to appeal for a generally more gentle treatment of animals (and plants).

A middle position can be identified between the two extreme positions of animals do not have a genuine moral status (cf. 1) and the moral status of animals and humans is the same (cf. 2.1).

2.2 The moral status of animals is subordinate to the moral status of humans
The theory that animals have their own moral status and that direct moral obligations therefore exist vis-à-vis animals, yet their moral status is as a matter of principle subordinate to the moral status of humans, is sometimes referred to as the double standard theory. The term "double standard" is intended to imply that while there are obligations towards both humans and animals, the respective obligations are different. Although the double standard is in some ways difficult to justify (it cannot, for example, escape the reproach of speciesism, see above), this model nevertheless probably approximates most closely the everyday understanding of an appropriate relationship between humans and animals. While animals would be deserving of protection for their own sake under this theory, their interests (in freedom from pain, survival etc.) would, however, - if they conflicted with human interests - be subordinate. All in all, this would give rise to an obligation to at least respect animals provided this did not infringe upon major human interests. At the same time, their use in scientific research (and also in the food industry) could be considered ethically acceptable overall. The Animal Protection Act, and in particular the requirement to demonstrate the indispensability and ethical acceptability of animal experiments, would appear to be roughly aligned with this understanding.
The philosopher Jürgen Habermas submitted a suggestion of what the reasoning of such a position could be. He allows a genuine moral status to animals, which depends on the level of social interaction with humans. This seems to display well that the moral intuition of human behaviour is especially relevant towards more sophisticated animals.

Also the animal protection act, especially the obligation to produce proof of indispensability as well as the ethical tenability of the animal experiments, approximately confirms this understanding.

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