The Wild Animal as a Research Animal

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Abstract

Most discussions on animal experimentation refer to domesticated animals and regulations are tailored to this class of animals. However, wild animals are also used for research, e.g., in biological field research that is often directed to fundamental ecological-evolutionary questions or to conservation goals. There are several differences between domesticated and wild animals that are relevant for evaluation of the acceptability of animal experiments. Biological features of wild animals are often more critical as compared with domesticated animals because of their survival effects. An important issue is what is called here “natural suffering”: the suffering from natural circumstances. Should this type of suffering be taken into account when suffering from experimentation is evaluated? As an answer, it is suggested that ``natural functioning'' should be considered as an additional standard in the evaluation of wild animal experimentation. Finally, two topics related to the ecological context are considered. Firstly, the often inevitable involvement of non-research animals in wild animal experimentation, and secondly, the eco-centric approach to nature conservation. According to the latter position, animals are subordinated to ecosystems. All these aspects make the evaluation of wild animal experiments much more complex than experiments with domesticated animals. Preliminary scores are proposed to deal with these aspects. It is argued that this should not lead to a more complex governmental regulation, since an effective maintenance and control are hard to realize and one may loose the cooperation of researchers themselves. In addition, non-governmental professional organizations such as research societies and funding organizations play a pivotal role.