NASA Principles for the Ethical
Care and Use of Animals
A strong allegiance to the principles of bioethics is vital to any discussion of
responsible research practices. As reflected in the considerations of the
National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects, "scientific research
has produced substantial social benefits... [and] some troubling ethical
questions" (The Belmont Report, 1979). The Belmont Report identified the key fundamental principles underlying the ethical evaluation of research involving
human subjects. Similarly, the principles governing the ethical evaluation of the
use of animals in research must be made equally explicit.
It is generally agreed that vertebrate animals warrant moral concern. The
following principles are offered to guide careful and considered discussion of
the ethical challenges that arise in the course of animal research, a process that
must balance risks, burdens and benefits. NASA will abide by these principles
as well as all applicable laws and policies that govern the ethical use of
animals (see list at end). It is recognized that awareness of these principles will
not prevent conflicts. Rather, these principles are meant to provide a
framework within which challenges can be rationally addressed.
The use of animals in research involves responsibility - not only for the
stewardship of the animals but to the scientific community and society as well.
Stewardship is a universal responsibility that goes beyond the immediate
research needs to include acquisition, care and disposition of the animals,
while responsibility to the scientific community and society requires an
appropriate understanding of, and sensitivity to scientific needs and community
attitudes toward the use of animals.
Among the basic principles generally accepted in our culture, three are
particularly relevant to the ethics of research using animals: respect for life,
societal benefit, and non-maleficence.
1. Respect for Life
Living creatures deserve respect. This principle requires that animals used in
research should be of an appropriate species and health status, and should
involve the minimum number required to obtain valid scientific results. It also
recognizes that the use of different species may raise different ethical concerns.
Selection of appropriate species should consider cognitive capacity and other
morally relevant factors. Additionally, methods such as mathematical models,
computer simulation, and in vitro systems should be considered and used
2. Societal Benefit
The advancement of biological knowledge and improvements in the protection
of the health and well being of both humans and other animals provide strong
justification for biomedical and behavioral research. This principle entails that
where animals are used, the assessment of the overall ethical value of such use
should include consideration of the full range of potential societal goods, the
populations affected, and the burdens that are expected to be borne by the
subjects of the research.
Vertebrate animals are sentient. This principle entails that the minimization of
distress, pain and suffering is a moral imperative. Unless the contrary is
established, investigators should consider that procedures that cause pain or
distress in humans may cause pain or distress in other sentient animals.
- Belmont Report, 1979
- Animal Welfare Act (Public Law 89-544 as amended)
- U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing , Research, and Training, Developed by IRAC
and endorsed by the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and
Use of Laboratory Animals, 1985
- International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving
Animals, Developed by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences, Switzerland, 1985
- Public Health Service Act (Public Law 99-158, 1985)
- Guide for the Care and Use of Lab Animals, 1996