Animal experimentation in forensic sciences: How far have we come?

C. Cattaneo, E. Maderna, A. Rendinelli, D. Gibelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the third millennium where ethical, ethological and cultural evolution seem to be leading more and more towards an inter-species society, the issue of animal experimentation is a moral dilemma. Speaking from a self-interested human perspective, avoiding all animal testing where human disease and therapy are concerned may be very difficult or even impossible, such testing may not be so easily justifiable when suffering-or killing-of non human animals is inflicted for forensic research. In order to verify how forensic scientists are evolving in this ethical issue, we undertook a systematic review of the current literature. We investigated the frequency of animal experimentation in forensic studies in the past 15 years and trends in publication in the main forensic science journals.Types of species, lesions inflicted, manner of sedation or anesthesia and euthanasia were examined in a total of 404 articles reviewed, among which 279 (69.1%) concerned studies involving animals sacrificed exclusively for the sake of the experiment. Killing still frequently includes painful methods such as blunt trauma, electrocution, mechanical asphyxia, hypothermia, and even exsanguination; of all these animals, apparently only 60.8% were anesthetized.The most recent call for a severe reduction if not a total halt to the use of animals in forensic sciences was made by Bernard Knight in 1992. In fact the principle of reduction and replacement, frequently respected in clinical research, must be considered the basis for forensic science research needing animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e29-e35
JournalForensic Science International
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Animal experimentation
  • Ethics
  • Forensic pathology
  • Forensic sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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