The least of the sentient beings

Rats and mice are very much more likely to be experimented on today in biomedical research than dogs, cats, or primates. Rats and mice, however, are explicitly excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act's protections against animal pain and suffering in a research setting. This paper is a response to an invitation to reflect on how medical and scientific researchers should think about the rats and mice they use, in light of ongoing legal developments in the human-animal relationship. The invitation was extended by the Michigan Society for Biomedical Research, an organization for the promotion of biomedical research and defense of the use of animals in research. It was extended to a teacher of Animal Law at the University of Michigan Law School who was serving as the non-scientist member from the University on the University's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Considerations to which attention is directed include developments in experimentation on humans paralleling and connected with developments in experimentation on animals, developments in the science of animals beyond the biomedical field, general movements in the legal treatment of animals that are not the outcome of conflicts between animal activists and research institutions, and the importance of attitude as a focus in any regulation of experimentation, animal or human.
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