- What are the total potential welfare costs and/or gains to the animals involved in the development of the vaccine?
- What are the potential welfare costs and/or gains to the animals to which the vaccine is to be applied?
- Could the potential welfare gains of MycoSynVac have been achieved by different methods (more room, better living conditions, etc.)?
1. What are the total potential welfare costs and/or gains to the animals involved in the development of the vaccine?
In the research and development phase of a project like
Animals are widely used in research and development in the biosciences, and their use as such does not represent an insurmountable ethical challenge. However, in all cases where animals are used, there is a need to justify the specific use in light of the so-called 3Rs: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. Replacement seeks to replace research animals, and especially higher animals, by using alternative methods which either do not involve animals at all or use animals with less highly developed sentience. (Whether using animals with lower sentience is
It should be noted that the ethical reasoning about MycoSynVac assumes that welfare gains will potentially benefit the animal populations that suffer from the diseases MycoSynVac is designed to prevent. However, any such potential welfare gains must be viewed in relation to the potential suffering caused by the research and development process. In other words, the animal welfare that is sacrificed during the development process must be counted if it is asserted that the total welfare outcome for the animals is a net positive.
- MycoSynVac should consider the possibility of replacing research animals with other methods such as computer simulations
- MycoSynVac should aim to reduce the use of research animals by using sophisticated research methods that allow for the greatest amount of data to be gathered from the smallest number of animals
- MycoSynVac should aim to refine animal research processes to minimize the harm done to each animal
- MycoSynVac should assess whether the scientific goals of a given research project are commensurate with the harm that is likely to be done to the research animals during the research
2. What are the potential welfare costs and/or gains to the animals to which the vaccine is to be applied?
The answer to this question largely depends on the likelihood of the research leading to the development of a successful vaccine that is also efficient and cheap enough to be widely adopted. Obviously, if the project does not deliver a vaccine for the market, or produces a vaccine that is too inefficient or expensive to be widely adopted, the potential welfare gains for animals will not be realized. However, if concerns about adoption rates are put to one side, there are potentially significant welfare gains to be had for the animals on which the vaccine is targeted. Animals suffering from M. Bovis, or from similar diseases for which there are no known vaccines, suffer a significant drop in welfare when they are infected – not only in terms of the pain associated with the
In terms of bringing a MycoSynVac product to the market, a reduction in the per-animal cost of any resultant vaccine would lead to the widest possible adoption of the vaccine, and thereby to the largest welfare benefit for the animals. This can be contrasted with strategies for bringing a product to market that might have a higher per-animal cost while generating a similar or equivalent profit. It also underlines the importance of the success of the project, as failure would lead to the same or a higher cost to the research animals (as a result of the continued research on them), while the benefits would not materialize.
- There are potentially large welfare gains for the animals eventually inoculated with the vaccine
- This emphasizes the importance of the success of the MycoSynVac project as a whole
- In order to maximize the welfare gains for the animals, MycoSynVac should aim to keep the per-animal cost of a vaccine as low as possible, in order to ensure its broadest possible adoption
3. Could the potential welfare gains of MycoSynVac have been achieved by different methods (more room, better living conditions, etc.)?
When it is argued that animal welfare gains will be secured by the success of the MycoSynVac project, the obvious question is “gained in relation to what?” The claim that welfare has been gained implicitly assumes a baseline state of affairs in relation to which the gain has been made.
The obvious comparison here is with the status quo. In other words, the claim would be that animals will be better off than they are now if MycoSynVac is a success. This claim depends on information about three things. First, we need an accurate assessment of the overall welfare levels of current livestock. Second, we need an accurate assessment of the current welfare cost of the diseases that MycoSynVac will, if successful, prevent. Third, we need to know more about the specific implementation of a potential vaccine.
The first two of these enquiries are largely empirical in nature. The third enquiry is a more normative one, i.e. it is about how we intend to implement the vaccine. If the vaccine is used as a tool permitting living conditions to be artificially kept at a minimum standard under ever more efficient conditions, then there will have been no real welfare gain for the animals. But if a vaccine raises the welfare of the animals, under the current conditions of production, to some level above the current minimum, a real welfare gain will have been realized.
It is also important to reflect on whether
- If MycoSynVac is to claim that there is
a gainto animal welfare, this must be contrasted with the feasibility of other potential methods of gaining the same welfare for the animals
- If gains to animal welfare are to be realized, MycoSynVac needs to ensure that the resultant vaccine is employed in a way that actually benefits animal welfare rather than a tool merely enabling farmers to maintain current levels of welfare in a more efficient production environment
Grimm, H., Olsson, A. I., & Sandøe, P. (2018).
Olsson, A. S., Varga, O., & Sandøe, P. (2015). A Matter of Importance: Considering Benefit in Animal Ethics Review. ALTEX Proceedings 4(1).
Sandøe, P., Franco, N. H., Lund, T. B., Weary, D. M., & Olsson, A. S. (2015). Harms to Animals – Can We Agree on How Best to Limit Them? ALTEX Proceedings 4(1), 28-32.
Tagawa, M., Ybanez, A. P., Matsumoto, K., Yokoyama, N., & Inokuma, H. (2012). Prevalence and Risk Factor Analysis of Bovine Hemoplasma Infection by Direct PCR in Eastern Hokkaido, Japan. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 74(9), 1171–1176. https://doi.org/10.1292/jvms.12-0118