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Table 5 Recent surveys that shed light on public opinion regarding animal research

From: The ethics of animal research: a survey of the public and scientists in North America

Survey Type of question(s) Description of main ethics findings
Eurobarometer, 2010 [16] “Scientists should be allowed to experiment on animals like dogs and monkeys if this can help sort out human health problems?” 44 % agree; 37 % disagree
UK, Ipsos MORI, 2012 [17] Most people (85 %) are “conditional acceptors” of AR, “so long as it is for medical research purposes” or “for life-threatening diseases” or “where there is not an alternative”, considering AR as a “necessary evil” for human benefit. 37 % were objectors (including 53 % of those age 15–24 years): they responded that they “do not support the use of animals in any experiments because of the importance I place on animal welfare” or “the government should ban all experiments on animals for any form of research.”
Most (76 %) agree that “there needs to be more research into alternatives to animal experiments.”
Gallup’s Values and Beliefs survey, USA, 2011 [18] Asked whether medical testing on animals is ‘morally acceptable’ or ‘morally wrong’. 43 % (including 54 % of those age 18–29 years) responded “morally wrong”
Gallup’s Values and Beliefs survey, USA, 2015 [19] “Animals deserve the exact same rights as people to be free from harm and exploitation.” 32 % chose this option. When asked, “in general, how concerned are you about the way animals used in research are currently treated in the US today”, 67 % responded very or somewhat concerned.
PEW Research Center survey, USA, 2015 [20] “All in all, do you favor or oppose the use of animals in scientific research?” 50 % oppose (up from 43 % in 2009; 62 % of women), 47 % favor, 3 % don’t know.
National Nanos RDD Crowdsource random survey of 1000 Canadians, 2013 [34] “Would you say that the potential suffering of animals used in the following types of situations is acceptable, somewhat acceptable, somewhat unacceptable, or unacceptable?”
“Some people think that the benefits of using animals to advance science and medicine outweigh the welfare of the animals while others believe that the welfare of the animal is important in determining what is an acceptable or unacceptable use of animals for science and medical testing. Which of these two views, if either best reflects your opinion?”
Response of acceptable or somewhat acceptable: testing to ensure safety and impact of medicine and medical devices, 57 %; developing products or devices for humans or animals such as artificial organs, 61 %; conducting medical research that relates to human or animal diseases or disorders, 64 %.
Reponses: the benefits of using animals to advance science and medicine outweigh the welfare of the animals, 30 %; the welfare of the animal is important in determining what is an acceptable or unacceptable use of animals, 54 %.
Sweden: rheumatoid arthritis patients and scientific expert members of research ethics boards, 2014 [35] Most respondents agreed to AR for at least some type of biomedical research. “In some research animals are used instead of people. What do you believe could be a relevant reason to expose animals to research that we ourselves would not take part in?” Only a minority chose response options of “humans have higher moral status”, “humans have higher intelligence”, “animals do not have a soul”, or “animals suffer less than humans do.” Most chose either “there are no relevant differences” (69 % of patients and 36 % of scientists), or “there are other relevant differences” (12 % of patients and 44 % of scientists).
UK: scientists promoting animal research, lay public, and animal welfarists, 2009 [36] The support for AR on a Likert scale of 7 was: 5.33 (SD 1.46), 3.57 (SD 1.70), and 1.48 (SD 0.87) for scientists, lay public, and animal welfarists respectively. The differences were largely explained by the scientists’ higher perception of lack of alternatives and of humans as superior, and lower perception of animal sentience.