ANZCCART Survey on Community Attitudes

The following ANZCCART publication was launched at the 2022 ANZCCART Conference, Melbourne.

Australian community attitudes towards the use of animals in research by Dr Alex Whittaker, Dr Emily Buddle and Professor Rachel Ankeny

Key summary information

Animals are extensively used in contemporary biomedical research and regarded by many as essential to progress in medical science. Animals are also used in other research settings such as in the agricultural and veterinary science fields. In Australia, there is a broad awareness that there is a general support for research using animals where it is performed in a humane manner for medical research, and where other options are limited. However, the ethical status of animals has become a crucial question as environmental consciousness and awareness of animal sentience has increased amongst the Australian population.

To date there has been no current, detailed, or comprehensive information on Australian public understandings of and values associated with animal research. To address this need ANZCCART commissioned a research study to explore the views of the Australian public regarding the use of animals in research.

The study was conducted online with a representative sample of the Australian public by Dr Alex Whittaker, Dr Emily Buddle and Professor Rachel Ankeny from the University of Adelaide and built upon existing surveys performed in the United Kingdom with supplemental questions specifically of relevance in the Australian context.

Knowledge/awareness about use of animals in research

  • Majority say they care about use of animals, but don’t feel well informed
  • 64% interested in finding out more about the research being done into alternatives to using animals in research
  • 70% interested in finding out more about what is being done to improve welfare of animals used in research
  • Many respondents were uncertain about which types of animal research were permitted: 40-59% depending on the specific type of application

Public acceptance

  • Unsure about animals being used in any kinds of research
  • Acceptability increases if research is done for medical reasons, if there are no alternatives, or if there is no unnecessary suffering
  • 57% said they disagree with the statement “it does not bother me if animals are used in scientific research,” with 20% saying that they neither agree nor disagree with this statement
  • Many are apprehensive and unsure about the use of animals in research
  • Use of animals is conditional: 37% agree that it is acceptable to use animals in all types of research where there is no alternative, with 30% disagreeing and 33% sitting on the fence or unsure
  • Consistent gender differences around willingness to accept use of animals in research, with females being less accepting

Alternatives to animals

  • Despite up to 25% of participants indicating that they don’t know about what researchers are doing to reduce using animals in their research, 69% believe they could be doing more to reduce animal suffering
  • 56% believe that use of animals for medical research purposes is important for human health
  • Many respondents indicated that they felt they didn’t know what to think
  • Reporting about COVID-19 vaccines likely influenced views in this period

Media Releases (Most of this is behind a pay wall).