public attitudes

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Factors Affecting People’s Acceptance of the Use of Zebrafish and Mice in Research

Elisabeth H. Ormandy, Catherine A. Schuppli and Daniel M. Weary

The species of laboratory animal used is known to influence people’s willingness to support animal-based research. An online experiment was used to test people’s willingness to accept the use of zebrafish or mice, two of the most commonly used species, in research involving either induced mutation (specifically, ethyl-N-nitrosourea [ENU] mutagenesis) or genetic modification, with and without regulatory oversight. Participants who were willing to support research on zebrafish (31.9%) were also willing to support the same research on mice. The participants expressed low levels of support for research involving ENU mutagenesis of zebrafish in both unregulated (30.7%) and regulated (38.5%) research programmes. A reason for the rejection of ENU mutagenesis was the perception that the procedure is painful. Some participants expressed a preference for the use of genetically-modified (GM) animal models over ENU mutagenesis, based on the belief that the former involves less pain and improves both the accuracy and efficiency of the animal models. Better informing the public about scientific practice, and scientists about public attitudes, may help reduce the disconnect between scientific practice and societal values.
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