ethical considerations

The question is not, can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?

Jeremy Bentham (1789)

© Manon Schweinfurth

Behavioural studies, like mine, increase our knowledge and appreciation of non-human animals. In fact, most of my studies highlight the high cognitive and emotional abilities of them. The physical and emotional well-being of my study subjects is of utmost importance to me. I aim at designing mutually rewarding studies, mostly because this is ethical, but also because it is vital to collect meaningful data.


Therefore, I am committed to:

- respect the individuals that collaborate with me, regardless of their species.

- apply the principles of the 3R's, namely reduction, refinement and replacement.

- provide the highest level of welfare and protection, whenever I am responsible for them.

- provide transparent information on animal research and welfare.

- promote conservation and animal welfare.

I get frequently asked who decides which experiments should be done and whether there are any regulations when testing animals.

The use of animals in research* in Europe is controlled by legislation, which differs from country to country. Despite animal welfare acts differ in many aspects between countries, I will try to provide here some basic insights into conducting animal research that is comparable across Europe.


Before conducting any study on animals in both the field and lab or housing any animal, researchers need sufficient training to ensure animal welfare. For instance, I obtained my international licence to conduct animal experiments from the Federation of Laboratory Animal Science Associations. This and related courses inform, for instance, about relevant legislation, ethics, animal welfare, the 3R’s, species-specific biology (husbandry, enrichment), animal care, gentle handling, health indicators, management and the recognition of pain and distress. Still, these courses do not qualify researchers for conducting an animal experiment. In advance of each study, at least one ethical approval must be obtained to ensure compliance with animal welfare regulations. The aim of this review process is to evaluate whether the proposed work should be done, not whether it can be done. The committee is often composed of scientists, representatives of animal welfare organisations and ethicists. However, the composition differs greatly between countries. After the proposed project has been approved, the study can be executed. Our handling, husbandry and licences are inspected periodically.


* Animal experiments are defined by taking data on an alive animal, which includes invasive and non-invasive methods, like observing animals in their natural habitat.

For further information, please have a look at these great papers:

by Cuthill on the use of 3R's in animal science.

of best practices for Field Primatology by the IPS.
for the use of animals in research by ASAB.

on animal testing and research by the UK government.

by Sneddon et al. on defining and assessing animal pain.