The Psychology Department is requesting permission from your committee to use 10 rats per semester for demonstrations in a physiological psychology class. The students will work in groups of three: each group will be given a rat. The students will first perform surgery on the rats. Each animal with be anesthetized. Following standard surgical procedures, an incision will be made in the scalp and two holes drilled in the animal's skull. Electrodes will be lowered into the brain to create lesions on each side. The animals will then be allowed to recover. Several weeks later, the effects of destroying this part of the animal's brain will be tested in a shuttle avoidance task in which animals will learn when to cross over an electrified grid. The instructor admits the procedure is a common demonstration and that no new information will be gained from the experiment. She argues, however, that students taking a course in psychology must have the opportunity to engage in small animal surgery to see firsthand the effects of brain legions. Response:
If I were a part of the Committee, I would definitely deny this request. This is not an ethical experiment because the students will be crippling the rats by purposefully inducing brain lesions. It is cruel and unethical to also, after inducing brain lesions within the rat’s brains, to test them in the shuttle avoidance task in which “the animals will learn when they have to cross over an electrified grid.” Not only do they mention themselves they will be “destroying” a part of the animal’s brain, but also they lack a clear scientific purpose. The instructor admits to saying no new information will be learned; therefore it goes against Rule 1 of the APA Ethic guidelines for Animal Research. Case 2:
Your university includes a college of veterinary medicine. In the past, the students practiced surgical techniques on dogs acquired from a local animal shelter. There have been some objections to this...