Scientific findings have revealed how much we have dramatically underestimated the intellectual, social and emotional capabilities of non-human animals, including their levels of self-consciousness and ability to suffer from psychological stress. In the 21st century, the field of animal ethics has evolved as a serious scientific discipline, and nowadays largely advocates that the way we treat animals, both legally and in practice, is morally wrong. Politics and legislation have reacted to these facts, to some extent, but neither current legislation nor current practice reflect the scientific and moral state-of-the-art. Too often, the will to change things is watered down in the decision-making process, e.g. in the drafting of legislation. In the field of animal experimentation there have been many genuine efforts by various players, to advance and apply the principles behind the Three Rs. However, the fundamental problem, i.e. the overall number of animals sacrificed for scientific purposes, has increased. Clearly, if we are serious about our will to regard animal experimentation as an ethical and societal problem, we have to put much more emphasis on addressing the question of how to avoid the use of animals in science. To achieve this goal, certain issues need to be considered: a) the present system of ethical evaluation of animal experiments, including testing for regulatory purposes, needs to be reformed and applied effectively to meet the legal and moral requirements; b) animal testing must be avoided in future legislation, and existing legislation has to be revised in that regard; c) resources from animal-based research have to re-allocated toward alternatives; and d) the academic curricula must be reformed to foster and integrate ethical and animal welfare issues.
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