Attitudes Towards Experimentation on Live Animals

What would it take for you to agree that a mouse or monkey should suffer pain or even die? To cure a life-threatening disease? Or would no scientific gain justify the animal's suffering?

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What would it take for you to agree that a mouse or monkey should suffer pain or even die? To cure a life-threatening disease? Or would no scientific gain justify the animal's suffering?

To find out where the British people draw the line on research with animals, New Scientist commissioned MORI to conduct the most complete survey yet on public attitudes to the most controversial debate in science.

This week's New Scientist, issue dated 22nd May 1999, contains an in-depth report on the poll.

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Personal perspectives on the results from two of the leading figures in the debate over animal experiments:

  • Prof. Colin Blakemore, University of Oxford
  • Dr. Gill Langley, Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research.

New Scientist / MORI poll on animal experimentation highlights

  • When asked "cold", 64 per cent of people say they disagree with animal experimentation. But including a preamble explaining why scientists believe it will hasten progress in medicine produces a slim majority in favour of animal research. This represents a huge swing of 22 percentage points.
  • More women than men are opposed to animal experiments--71 per cent versus 57 per cent on the "cold start" question.
  • The only group that clearly supports animal experiments on this same question are the tiny proportion of people who take part in blood sports or wear fur coats, with 62 per cent in favour.
  • 35 per cent of people say they, or a close family member, have taken a prescribed drug for a serious illness in the past 2 years or so. But only around one in six of this group realise that the drugs will have been tested on animals.
  • 65 per cent of people are prepared for mice to suffer pain, illness or surgery in experiments to develop a drug to cure childhood leukaemia; 52 per cent would let monkeys be used in the same experiments.
  • 56 per cent are prepared for mice to suffer in experiments to develop an AIDS vaccine, but only 44 per cent back the use of monkeys in these experiments.
  • Just 47 per cent are prepared for mice to suffer pain in experiments to develop a new painkilling drug; the figure for monkeys falls to 35 per cent.
  • 61 per cent oppose the use of mice in experiments to study the sense of hearing, if the animals suffer in any way. This increases to 75 per cent for monkeys.
  • 68 per cent think mice should not be used in harmful tests on the toxicity of a garden insecticide.
  • One in 20 people are prepared to let monkeys die to test cosmetics.

Technical details

MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 2 009 adults aged 15+ in 158 parliamentary constituencies in Great Britain from 5-8 March 1999. All interviews were conducted in-home, face-to-face using CAPI (computer assisted personal interviewing) methodology. Data have been weighted to the known profile of the British population.

Download the full presentation Public Attitudes Towards Animal Experimentation [19 May 1999] [pdf format - 104K]

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