The role of ethical theories in the decision making of Australian animal ethics committees: a multi-method examination

Mikaela Ciprian

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    [Truncated] In Australia, the decision as to whether animals can be used in scientific experiments are made on a case by case basis by animal ethics committees (AECs) made up of veterinarians, scientists, animal welfare representatives and lay people. AECs make their decision as a consensus based on ‘The Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes’. The Code prescribes that decisions should be made using cost benefit analysis, adhering to the principles of the 3Rs and made in a way that best provides for the animal’s welfare. The Code can be interpreted to suggest that decisions be made using a mixture of the ethical theories utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics. However, the extent to which AECs use each theory in their decision making, and how they are influenced by subjectivism and cultural relativism, is unknown.

    Ethical decision making is influenced by three classes of factors. The first are individual factors, such as the stakeholder role of the AEC member. The second is the ‘moral intensity’, or ethical characteristics of the problem, which in animal experimentation include the species used, whether the animals are suffering, and the ‘human interest’ of the experiment. The third is the social context, or the environment in which the decision is made, so the group dynamic of the committee will influence decision making. This thesis investigated how AEC members use three normative ethical theories, utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics, and the metaethical position of relativism, to justify animal experimentation, and how their decision making is influenced by stakeholder role, moral intensity and social context.

    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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