Animal Research: Where Would You Draw The Line?


Today, a discussion about morality of animal research among the public provokes a diverse range of strong feelings and opinions. However, the moral issues of animal research has only recently in the past century or so 
become a topic worthy of serious debate. Historical evidence informs us animals have been used as models for biomedical research for over 2000 years. Early Greek physicians such as Aristotle (384-322 b.c) and Erasistratus (304-258 b.c) often routinely experimented on animals (Hajar, 2011) which included the use of vivisection to advance their understanding of the human body. This practice of course continued throughout history and is now the backbone for a large proportion of the scientific research conducted and produced today (, 2014). The necessity of animal experimentation as it stands today though is questioned now more than ever. Particularly with the use of primates and when experiments are very invasive and cause significant pain or suffering (, 2016). Therefore the morality of animal experimentation at its most fundamental level tends to hinge on, 1) what animals are used for experimentation and why, and 2) the point at which we conclude the risk, or infliction of harm and suffering on animals is worth the benefits gained. The distinctions between what animals people believe should or shouldn’t be subjugated to animal research seems somewhat arbitrary but can be explained by several factors including cultural and social biases which differ between countries (von Roten, 2012) and personal characteristics and traits which differ between people. The latter point that dictates whether it is morally acceptable to use animals for research strongly resembles utilitarianism, whatever action results in the greatest good for the greatest number (, 2016). These are arguably the two most salient points when questioning the ethics or morality of experimentation on animals. Efforts have been made to understand the views of the general public about the the ethical issues of animal experimentation, because ultimately, government policy and legislation, and in particular the direction and limits of scientific research and the majority public opinion are intimately tied (Shuttleworth and Frampton, 2015). Therefore several large surveys have been conducted to help investigate not just how the public feels about animal experimentation but why. This will help shape future research models and may change the way we use animals for research indefinitely. This review discusses a survey involving a sample of 100 members of the public of mixed demographics, somewhat representative of the population as whole, to investigate public opinions on what animals should be permitted for experimentation and any correlations present which may motivate such opinions.


The results taken from the survey showed a particular trend towards approving the use of “lower life forms” such as insects, slugs and reptiles and mammals we deem as food and pests. Nearly every subject condoned the use of slugs and insects with only three subjects opposing research on all animals altogether. Eighty-nine approved the use of reptiles whilst eighty-five approved the use of fish for research. Eighty-three people approved the use of food mammals and pest mammals for research. Only 10 people approved the use of primates and 20 people for the use of pet mammals for animal research.

(Fig 1) – Across a sample of 100 members of the public with various demographics representative of the general population, opinions on the use of particular animals for research are presented above.

A statistical analysis using Pearson Chi-squared test of independence (SPSS) was made to identify any correlations between owning a pet and the use of pet animals for research. The results found no significant correlation (pvalue 0.544) between previously or currently owning a pet and using pet animals for animal research. The total number of pet owners compared to non pet-owners, as shown in (Table 1) were almost equally divided (42 and 43 respectively) but the largest group of thirty-six people were those against the use of pet animals for research who didn’t own pets, whilst the second largest group of thirty-three were also against the use of pet animals who did own pets. The largest group of people approving the use of pet animals for research were pet owners of which nine approved compared to seven non-pet owners which approved the use of pet animals for research.

(Table 1) – Shows the frequency of pet owners and non-pet owners who approved of the use pet animals for research.


A dramatic shift in opposition is seen in (Fig 1) when it came to opinions on using primates and pet mammals for animal research compared with food and pest mammals and even more so compared to species outside of our Mammalia class. A growing objection in the use of primates is likely motivated morally by the explicit similarities we identify between ourselves and them. A more recently growing objection to research on primates is in part due to the highly controversial deprivation experiments which has recently prompted David Attenborough and 21 other experts to call for an end in the use of primates for research (Ted Jeory, 2016). However our data doesn’t reflect much of the larger polls carried out which shows around 44% of the UK public condone the use of primates for experiments (ECEAE, 2010) compared to 10% shown in (Fig 1). This must be interpreted with caution though, since many surveys combine other animals such as dogs with primates. Therefore it’s difficult to get an accurate and definitive picture of public opinion relating to specific animals in the use of research. A slightly lesser number, although still a majority of people in (Fig 1) still objected to pet animals for use in research. This likely stems from our emotional attachments or our cultural perceptions of pet animals which underpins our biases towards them as an influential factor in objection to their use (Wells and Hepper, 1997). When the number of pet animals approved for animal research is compared to the number of food animals permitted for research we must question whether this discrepancy is grounded in a logically sound rationale, given that some food animals display much higher levels of intelligence that pet animals (PETA, 2012). The findings reported in (Table 1) showed marginally more people without pets were against the use of animals for research than people who owned pets. Similarly, there was a marginal amount of people more who owned pets who approved the use of pet animals in research compared to those who didn’t own pets. Based on the findings owning a pet doesn’t appear to bias a persons opinion about the use of pet animals in research although public perceptions of pet animals certainly has been shown to be distinct (Research, 2009). Since there was only one vegan and little more than a few vegetarians there was not a big enough sample size to draw meaningful inferences about whether or not there is a correlation between the amount of animals foods a person consumes and the types of animals they permit for research. Public attitudes towards animal research has shifted over the last few decades in support against animal research
(Herzog et al. 2001; Moore 2003; Rowan and Loew 2001). A UK survey in 2014 found that out of 969 respondents questioned, 68% agreed that they “can accept the use of animals in research for medical purposes where there are no alternatives” (, 2014) compared to 76% who supported this notion in the 2010 survey (, 2012). However when investigating public attitudes towards animal testing, survey questions each year are often rephrased and also fail to specify the types of animals used for research purposes which may mislead to the simplification of a much more complex issue, both in question and response. Some members of the public are also ignorant to anything more than a superficial understanding of animal research and therefore may not be able to make properly informed opinions to begin with thereby reducing the credibility of those opinions. This may be reflected by the fact that 40% of the public who were asked about animal research wanted to know more about it (, 2012).


There are no correlations between owning a pet and permitting pet animals for research. There are, however, clear distinctions between what the public deem as a justifiable animal model for research. Many people agree pet animals and primates are distinctly different from the rest of the animals in question and deserve exclusion from research use with non-mammalian species accounting for a much higher approval rate for use in research. These are in part due to a reservation of bias towards animals such as primates and pet animals. Whether this is a logically and morally justified basis for which animals are to be used for animal research is highly questionable. Wording and phrasing of the questions are also important in changing the answer perspective which may also either improve or impair the quality of data received.

References (2016). Sir David Attenborough calls for end to brain experiments on monkeys | Cruelty Free International. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

ECEAE, (2010). ECEAE | Eurobarometer survey shows public concern on animal testing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016]. (2014). Public attitudes to animal testing – Press releases – GOV.UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016]. (2016). Utilitarianism, Act and Rule | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Hagelin, J., Carlsson, H. and Hau, J. (2003). An overview of surveys on how people view animal experimentation: some factors that may influence the outcome. Public Understanding of Science, 12(1), pp.67-81.

Hajar, R. (2011). Animal testing and medicine. Heart Views, 12(1), p.42.

Herzog H, Rowan A, Kossow D. Social attitude and animals. (2001) In: Salem DJ, Rowan AN, editors. The State of the Animals. Washington, DC: Humane Society Press; pp. 55–69.

Ormandy, E. and Schuppli, C. (2014). Public Attitudes toward Animal Research: A Review. Animals, 4(3), pp.391-408.

PETA. (2012). If Your Dog Tasted Like Pork, Would You Eat Her?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Research, N. (2009). Use of Dogs and Cats in Research: Public Perception and Evolution of Laws and Guidelines. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016].

Rowan AN, Loew FM. (2001) Animal research: A review of developments, 1950-2000. In: Salem DJ, Rowan AN, editors. The State of the Animals 2001. Washington, DC: Humane Society Press;. pp. 111–120.

Shuttleworth, S. and Frampton, S. (2015). Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science. The Lancet, 385(9987), p.2568.

Ted Jeory, J. (2016). David Attenborough calls for end to ‘cruel’ brain tests on primates. [online] The Independent. Available at: [Accessed 12 Dec. 2016]. (2014). Forty reasons why we need animals in research | Understanding Animal Research. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Dec. 2016].

Von Roten, F. (2012). Public perceptions of animal experimentation across Europe. Public Understanding of Science, 22(6), pp.691-703.

Wells, D. and Hepper, P. (1997). Pet Ownership and Adults’ Views on the Use of Animals. Society & Animals, 5(1), pp.45-63.

Children Eat Their Weight In Sugar: What Can Be Done?


The first recommendations on carbohydrate intake were proposed in the 1980’s and 90’s by COMA which has since disbanded. Since then overwhelming evidence has mounted which shows carbohydrate consumption to be associated with many of today’s current health problems. More specifically, the type of carbohydrate and the consumption of simple sugars and refined carbohydrates has become an increasing concern. High sugar intake is implicated as a significant risk factor for diabetes, fatty liver disease and obesity and receives a large amount of focus for current health initiatives and government policy on the recommendations for sugar intake.

Prevalence of weight related disease

In the UK 57% of adults are overweight and obese which is predicted to reach around 70% by 2034 (Public Health England Obesity Knowledge and Intelligence team, 2016). Children in the UK are following a similar trend with 25% of them being over weight and obese. The prevalence of doctor-diagnosed diabetes in adults increased between 1994 and 2014 from 2.9% to 7.1% and 1.9% to 5.3% for men and women respectively. The cost of obesity to the NHS is £5.1 billion (Scarborough et al., 2011) and the cost of treating diabetes and the complications that result from it in 2010/11 was £9.8 billion a year which is projected to be over £16.9 billion by 2035/36 (Hex et al., 2012). However, the NHS has refuted claims about potential bankruptcy in the future (, 2012) despite such claims circulating in the media (, 2015).

Sugar consumption

Actual sugar consumption has fallen over the past 40 years while consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and foods have risen. Children ages 4-10 are said to consume on average just over 60g of sugar a day, equating to 5,543 sugar cubes or 22kg of sugar in one year (, 2016). Sugar consumption is highest among school age children and low income families. However, a high consumption of sugary foods is not justified by a low income when you consider a bag of bananas or apples can be purchased at a lower price which contains natural sugars, as well as vitamins and minerals. The biggest source of sugar for kids are juices and soft drinks, although for ages 19-64 one of the biggest sources of sugar comes from table sugar. However, this may be attributed to Britain’s cultural obsession with Tea.

Parents perception of child weight status and health

The fact that 42% of parents do not recognise their children to be overweight or obese when they are (Public Health England, 2015) also contributes to the problem. A study showed parents of overweight and obese children considered happiness, diet and activity level to be more important than body weight as an indicator of health, despite the physical and mental health implications of being overweight or obese (Syrad et al., 2014). The same study found that parents also didn’t find the BMI scale to be a credible indicator of a child’s health, because according to parents it didn’t take into consideration the child’s lifestyle. This shows that despite the implicated health risks of being over weight or obese, parents do not acknowledge body weight to be a significant risk factor to their child’s health. This is a dangerous misperception that needs to be immediately corrected. A strategy to give parents a more accurate perception of ‘overweight’ as well as education on the diverse effects that being overweight or obese has on their children, must be part of the health initiative. Failure to do so will not address the wider context of the problem

Current health initiatives

Health initiatives are currently in place across Britain to reduce sugar intake.
Public Health England compiled an evidence based report called “Sugar consumption: The evidence for action” (Public Health England., 2015) which expresses the need to drastically reduce sugar intake across the population, which even the British Dental Association stated would be reckless to ignore (BDJ Team., 2015).
Change4Life has issued a new campaign that focuses on educating parents to be “sugar smart” and even encourages parents to download the new Sugar Smart app that measures the sugar content of every day food and drink (, 2016).
Action on Sugar have also proposed an evidence based, six point sugar reduction plan to David Cameron (Cameron’s Plan: A comprehensive approach to prevent obesity, 2015) and are also backing TV chef Jamie Oliver’s obesity plan too (, 2015). Some of the actions proposed by Action on Sugar involve a 50% sugar reduction within the next five years starting with soft drinks, ceasing the promotion and all types of marketing of unhealthy food to children and adolescents and a 20% duty on all sugar sweetened soft drinks and confectionery. They also began promoting sugar awareness week between the 30thNov-6thDec (, 2015). All health initiatives proposed involve the proposal of a sugar tax with 53% of the public being for it.

Educational behavioural strategies

In review of five educational school intervention programmes that aim to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and investigate changes in body mass, three showed long term success (Avery et al., 2014). After 12 months, one of which found the percentage of overweight and obese children decreased while the control group increased by 7.5% (Stockman., 2006). Sugar tax doesn’t address the root causes or take into context the bigger picture. Research has also suggested calorie intake has dropped but activity levels have dropped further (Prentice et al., 1995). Evidence investigating marketing strategies such as the four P’s (promotion, price, product, place) framework is shown to influence consumption and purchase of sugar (Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action Annexe 3, 2015). These same principles can be applied to the marketing of healthy foods, but need to be marketed with equal if not more vigour than the marketing strategies used to promote unhealthy foods.


Overall the dynamics of sugar consumption and its effects on the health of the population is complex. As such, this surely warrants an equal response and an approach that mirrors it’s complexity. The food industry needs to become a part of the solution and not part of the problem to shift the favour towards the goals of the initiatives. Whilst the government needs to do its part in enforcing change and aggressively working towards fulfilling the goals of the initiatives. However, reducing sugar consumption is just one step towards tackling a multi faceted problem. There are many other factors affecting the health of the public besides sugar. Significant, long term improvements in public health and reductions in dietary related diseases will ultimately be accomplished at an individual level without tactics of coercion. This change will come from parents having; realistic nutrition and bodyweight perceptions, better food awareness, practical guidance on calorie balance and portion control and education on the effects of overnutrition. This all of course needs to be followed up with parents putting knowledge into practice and implementing long term positive behaviour changes such as moderating portion sizes or increasing purchases of foods that contain natural sugars such as fruit, whilst decreasing or eliminating the purchase of foods that contain ‘free sugars’.

References (2015). ACTION ON SUGAR BACKS JAMIE OLIVER’S OBESITY STRATEGY AND LAUNCHES ITS OWN EVIDENCE-BASED ACTION PLAN TO SAVE LIVES AND THE NHS. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Mar. 2016]. (2015). Sugar Awareness Week. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].

Avery, A., Bostock, L. and McCullough, F. (2014). A systematic review investigating interventions that can help reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in children leading to changes in body fatness. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 28, pp.52-64.

BDJ Team (2015) 2, Article number: 15157. Ignoring Public Health England report on sugar reduction would be reckless. BDJ Team, 2(10), p.15157.

Butland B, Jebb S, Kopelman P. (2007).
Tackling obesities: future choices – project report 2nd Ed. London: Foresight Programme of the Government Office for Science, 2007.

Cameron’s Plan: A comprehensive approach to prevent obesity. (2015). [pdf]. UK: Action on Sugar. Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2016]. (2015). diabetes threatens bankrupt NHS UK 2015. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2016].

GOV.UK. (2016). 5 year olds eat and drink their body weight in sugar every year – Press releases – GOV.UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].

Hex, N., Bartlett, C., Wright, D., Taylor, M. and Varley, D. (2012). Estimating the current and future costs of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in the UK, including direct health costs and indirect societal and productivity costs. Diabetic Medicine, 29(7), pp.855-862. (2012). Massive rise in diabetes costs predicted – Health News – NHS Choices. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2016]. (2016). Let’s get Sugar Smart! Download the Change4Life Sugar Smart app for free today. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].

Obesity Knowledge and Intelligence team. (2016). Public Health England. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Mar. 2016].

Prentice, A. and Jebb, S. (1995). Obesity in Britain: gluttony or sloth?. BMJ, 311(7002), pp.437-439.

Public Health England. (2015). [pdf]. Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action. Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].

Scarborough, P., Bhatnagar, P., Wickramasinghe, K., Allender, S., Foster, C. and Rayner, M. (2011). The economic burden of ill health due to diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and obesity in the UK: an update to 2006-07 NHS costs. Journal of Public Health, 33(4), pp.527-535.

Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action Annexe 3: A mixed method review of behaviour changes resulting from marketing strategies targeted at high sugar food and non-alcoholic drink. (2015). 1st ed. England: Public Health England, 7-8.

Stockman, J. (2006). Preventing Childhood Obesity by Reducing Consumption of Carbonated Drinks: Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial. Yearbook of Pediatrics, 2006, pp.407-408.

Syrad, H., Falconer, C., Cooke, L., Saxena, S., Kessel, A., Viner, R., Kinra, S., Wardle, J. and Croker, H. (2014). ‘Health and happiness is more important than weight’: a qualitative investigation of the views of parents receiving written feedback on their child’s weight as part of the National Child Measurement Programme. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 28(1), pp.47-55.

Genetic Analysis: As Part Of Public Health Measures?

dna 2Genetic analysis for public health screening

Our understanding of the human genome has improved exponentially over the past century. With the completion of the human genome project in 2003 humans have sequenced the entire molecule of life, deoxyribonucelic acid (DNA), estimating the presence of 20,500 genes and 1.42 million single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNP’s) (Sachidanandam, Ravi et al 2001). This of course has led to a much clearer understanding of our genes and with it, a deeper cognizance for the information stored within them. Because of this, we are now able to much more thoroughly interpret our own genetic information which may hold the key to the future door of human health. Genetic analysis can be used to indicate an individuals susceptibility to specific diseases by identifying certain SNP’s that are associated with a persons risk of developing that particular disease. Similarly a person can even become familiar with their bodies own capacity to metabolise certain drugs and learn how well they respond to them. People are also able to build a social network with long distance relatives through the analysis of the ethnic composition of ones genome. However concerns have been raised regarding the interpretation and use of personal genetic information by the general public. This article will discuss both positive and negative implications of the use of a genetic analysis service 23andMe, as an accessible health screening device for the general public.

Genetic analysis from 23andMe can indicate an estimated risk of disease according to the identification of mutation SNP’s and could be used effectively to encourage healthier behaviour patterns in the right minded individuals. This could lead to an individual taking preventative measures to reduce their disease risk (Milne et al 2000) and thus resulting in positive health improvements. However, such information can also be misinterpreted and misleading for some, creating panic and anticipation about a disease that may never occur. This could create a rush for unnecessary screening and testing in healthy asymptomatic people that may never develop disease especially with regards to those who test positive for BRCA mutation genes associated with breast cancer. Conversely in the case of Rita Rubin, she found out through genetic analysis 23andMe that she had a smaller chance of developing Crohns disease than the average person but yet had lived with the condition all her life ( Genetic testing could also lead an individual into a false sense of security promoting an indulgence in unhealthy behaviours that may actually encourage disease, even though they are not genetically susceptible to it (Chapman and Bilton 2004) . Some of the disease susceptibility included in the service are diseases for which there is no cure or effective treatment. A concern remains in the question of whether psychologically and emotionally unstable individuals will respond well to finding out they dna-are at a high risk for developing a disease they can not manage or treat. Conversely a strong minded and proactive individual being made aware they have a small chance of developing a disease will most likely take preventative actions to minimise their risk and make positive lifestyle changes.

Positive implications also exist for the testing of genetic variations that indicate drug metabolism. For example patients that use drugs to prevent heart attacks or blood clotting may benefit from knowing how well they respond to a certain drug and how sensitive they are to it. This information of course could potentially save lives, but may have to be used, in the context of public health, under the guidance of all relevant qualified health care professionals including emotional counsellors (Allyse and Michie 2013).

Data from genetic analysis can be both useful and detrimental to a persons physical and psychological welfare, depending on the individual and their interpretation of the data. Although data from such an analysis can not be currently used to determine exhaustive and definitive susceptibility to disease, it can nonetheless serve as a platform for the progression of this type of technology so more accurate interpretations can be made from this type of data in the future. Also until the reliability of the data from genetic analysis improves and its interpretation can be given more accurately, it should serve as ‘information of interest’ for the public, rather than a tool to discover the fate of one’s health. It should be made explicit to anyone using genetic analysis that genetics are only one factor in disease risk and not the only factor. Genetic analysis could ensue more concern and worry for some than the significance and reliability of the data deserves credit for. It does, however, have the ability to prosper as a device used for public health screening and for personalised health improvement at an individual level.

Allyse, Megan, and Marsha Michie. (2013). ‘Not-So-Incidental Findings: The ACMG Recommendations On The Reporting Of Incidental Findings In Clinical Whole Genome And Whole Exome Sequencing’. Trends in Biotechnology 31.8 (2013): 439-441. Available from:
[15 March 2015]

Chapman, E, and Diana Bilton. (2004) ‘Patients’ Knowledge Of Cystic Fibrosis: Genetic Determinism And Implications For Treatment’. Journal of Genetic Counseling 13.5: 369-385. Available from: [15 March 2015]

MILNE, S et al (2000) ‘Prediction And Intervention In Health-Related Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review Of Protection Motivation Theory’. J Appl Social Pyschol 30.1: 106-143. Available from: file:///C:/Users/User1/Downloads/JASP-PMTMeta.pdf [15 March 2015] (2013) ‘The Pros And Cons Of Genetic Testing’. N.p. Available from: [15 March 2015]

Sachidanandam, Ravi et al. (2001). ‘A Map Of Human Genome Sequence Variation Containing 1.42 Million Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms’. Nature
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