High public acceptance of animal research to find treatments for COVID-19

Posted: on 17/04/20

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High public acceptance of animal research to find treatments for COVID-19

The UK public overwhelmingly supports the bioscientific community in their work to develop treatments and an effective vaccine for COVID-19

In a national survey, carried out for Understanding Animal Research during the national lockdown in late March 2020, over three-quarters of respondents (77%) said that they trusted UK scientists to provide a solution to COVID-19, and 95% said they expected worldwide collaboration to find a solution.  92% were aware that animals are used to try to develop new treatments and procedures for specific diseases and almost three-quarters of people (73%) accepted that scientific research using animals such as mice, dogs and monkeys, would be important to developing treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. 

Public opinion survey 2020 results infographic.jpg

75% said that they could accept the use of animals in scientific research as long as there was no unnecessary suffering to the animals and no alternative, which are two of the legal requirements for obtaining a licence for animal research in the UK.  Only 14% said that they could not accept the use of animals in research under these circumstances.

Trials of new and existing medicines in animals will be critical to the development of treatments for those affected by COVID-19. There are multiple research projects taking place in the UK and around the world aiming to develop vaccines and identify treatments that might alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19. Scientists and animal care staff who are involved in this research are considered key workers, playing a critical role in underpinning healthcare.

The survey also invited participants to give their own views on how they thought a solution to the crisis caused by COVID-19 would be found.  Almost half of respondents (48%) felt that the most likely solution would be through scientific research and the development of a vaccine. This word cloud summarises the main themes emerging from the answers submitted:

Public attitudes survey word cloud 2.jpgPublic attitudes survey word cloud 1.jpg

A survey respondent said:

“In the past I was against animal testing but we are currently in a do or die situation and if regulated testing on animals achieves a faster way of finding a vaccine then I feel that we need to go down that route.

“I would hope that this is kept to a minimum. As a vegan this is not an easy thing for me to say but there has to be a point where a human’s life is more important than a rat's so I cannot rule out completely the option of animal experimentation.”

Bella Williams, Head of Engagement at Understanding Animal Research said:

"We know from ongoing tracking polling of public opinion that people in Great Britain are generally very accepting of the use of animals in research.  The numbers fluctuate a bit from year to year, but around 70% of people say they can accept this research if it is properly regulated. However, the public is usually less certain about how animals are used in research, and less accepting of the need to use larger animals such as dogs and monkeys.  This survey shows that, faced with a health crisis like COVID-19, people are prepared to accept that animal research is going to be necessary if treatments and vaccines are to be developed."

Download the report here

Last edited: 14 May 2024 12:28

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