The Pursuit and Advancement of Knowledge as a Justification for the Use of Animals in Research

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1 Scopus citations


It is commonly said that animal research is sometimes ethically appropriate because it can lead to knowledge, irrespective of benefits this knowledge might bring to humans or animals. Proponents of this view, which I call the "knowledge justification," have been unclear about what they mean by the term "knowledge." They also omit from the justification other features of animal research that are intimately connected with the pursuit and advancement of knowledge. This article identifies and includes in a modified knowledge justification 5 general elements of the pursuit and advancement of knowledge in animal research: "knowledge" in the sense of facts, information, or explanations; "knowledge" in the sense of the experience of having knowledge; contemplation; the exercise of intellectual faculties and skills; and pleasures, frustrations, and challenges in the pursuit and advancement of knowledge. The article explains why these elements are valuable and must be given weight in assessing the ethical appropriateness of curiosity-driven animal research. The discussion critiques defenses and applications of current expressions of the knowledge justification. The article offers a preliminary defense of curiosity-driven animal research by arguing that using animals to obtain scientific knowledge and the pleasures of scientific inquiry can be far more valuable for humans and no more harmful to some animals than the use of these animals to produce meat for human consumption. The article presents 2 examples of curiosity-driven animal research to further establish the plausibility of the knowledge justification and suggests questions and guidelines for developing the justification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-365
Number of pages19
JournalILAR Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • basic animal research
  • curiosity-driven animal research
  • fundamental animal research
  • knowledge
  • knowledge for its own sake
  • knowledge justification
  • pleasures of knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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