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Open AccessFeature PaperCommentary
Animals 2017, 7(9), 70; doi:10.3390/ani7090070

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions: Why Harm–Benefit Analysis and Its Emphasis on Practical Benefit Jeopardizes the Credibility of Research

1
Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, 1210 Vienna, Austria
2
Institute for Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich, 8006 Zurich, Switzerland
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: James Yeates
Received: 20 July 2017 / Revised: 1 September 2017 / Accepted: 7 September 2017 / Published: 11 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Ethics)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [184 KB, uploaded 11 September 2017]

Abstract

It is our concern that European Union Directive 2010/63/EU with its current project evaluation of animal research in the form of a harm–benefit analysis may lead to an erosion of the credibility of research. The HBA assesses whether the inflicted harm on animals is outweighed by potential prospective benefits. Recent literature on prospective benefit analysis prioritizes “societal benefits” that have a foreseeable, positive impact on humans, animals, or the environment over benefit in the form of knowledge. In this study, we will argue that whether practical benefits are realized is (a) impossible to predict and (b) exceeds the scope and responsibility of researchers. Furthermore, we believe that the emphasis on practical benefits has the drawback of driving researchers into speculation on the societal benefit of their research and, therefore, into promising too much, thereby leading to a loss of trust and credibility. Thus, the concepts of benefit and benefit assessment in the HBA require a re-evaluation in a spirit that embraces the value of knowledge in our society. The generation of scientific knowledge has been utilised to great benefit for humans, animals, and the environment. The HBA, as it currently stands, tends to turn this idea upside down and implies that research is of value only if the resulting findings bring about immediate societal benefit. View Full-Text
Keywords: harm–benefit-analysis; legitimacy of animal research; value of knowledge; scientific vs. societal benefit; animal ethics harm–benefit-analysis; legitimacy of animal research; value of knowledge; scientific vs. societal benefit; animal ethics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Grimm, H.; Eggel, M.; Deplazes-Zemp, A.; Biller-Andorno, N. The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions: Why Harm–Benefit Analysis and Its Emphasis on Practical Benefit Jeopardizes the Credibility of Research. Animals 2017, 7, 70.

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