Understanding attitudes towards the use of animals in research using an online public engagement tool

Catherine A. Schuppli, Carla F.M. Molento, Daniel M. Weary

Using an online public engagement experiment, we probed the views of 617 participants on the use of pigs as research animals (to reduce agricultural pollution or to improve organ transplant success in humans) with and without genetic modification and using different numbers of pigs. In both scenarios and across demographics, level of opposition increased when the research required the use of GM corn or GM pigs. Animal numbers had little effect. A total of 1037 comments were analyzed to understand decisions. Participants were most concerned about the impact of the research on animal welfare. Genetic modification was viewed as an intervention in nature and there was worry about unpredictable consequences. Both opponents and supporters sought assurances that concerns were addressed. Governing bodies for animal research should make efforts to document and mitigate consequences of GM and other procedures, and increase efforts to maintain a dialogue with the public around acceptability of these procedures.



Zoo visitors’ understanding of terms denoting research activity

Lloyd Carson

Zoos have increasingly sought to justify their existence by reference to a scientific role particularly in the domains of animal welfare and conservation. Given recent initiatives by the UK government to foster public engagement with science, it is timely to investigate public attitudes towards primary research activity by zoos. This study reports the views of 83 visitors to Edinburgh Zoo. Within certain items in a structured interview noun terms denoting research activity were manipulated (“research” versus “studies”) as was their qualification (adjective “scientific” present or absent before the noun term). “Research” was associated with a restricted and negative perception of investigatory activity. This effect was intensified when the noun term was preceded by “scientific”. It is concluded that there is a continuing need to challenge public perceptions, particularly of the phrase “scientific research”; that in the meantime zoos should perhaps exercise caution when using it in relation to their activities.


Painful dilemmas: A study of the way the public’s assessment of animal research balances costs to animals against human benefits

Thomas Bøker Lund, Morten Raun Mørkbak, Jesper Lassen, Peter Sandøe

The conflict between animal costs and human benefits has dominated public as well as academic debates about animal research. However, surveys of public perceptions of animal research rarely focus on this part of attitude formation. This paper traces the prevalence of different attitudes to animal research in the public when people are asked to take benefit and cost considerations into account concurrently. Results from the examination of two representative samples of the Danish public identify three reproducible attitude stances. Approximately 30–35% of people questioned approved of animal research quite strongly, and 15–20% opposed animal research. The remaining 50% were reserved in their views. Further studies will ideally use the measure developed here to make possible relatively fine-grained comparisons and understandings of differences between populations and changes in attitudes over time.