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Savages, Drunks, and Lab Animals: The Researcher's Perception of Pain

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Historically, treatment for pain relief has varied according to the social status of the sufferer. A similar tendency to make arbitrary distinctions affecting pain relief was found in an ethnographic study of animal research laboratories. The administration of pain-relieving drugs for animals in laboratories differed from standard practice for humans and, perhaps, for companion animals. Although anesthesia was used routinely for surgical procedures, its administration was sometimes haphazard. Analgesics, however, were rarely used. Most researchers had never thought about using analgesics and did not consider the subject worthy of serious attention. Scientists interviewed for this study agreed readily that animals are capable offeeling pain, but such assertions were muted by an overriding view of lab animals as creatures existing solely for the purposes of research. As a result, it was the exceptional scientist who was able to focus on anything about the animal's subjective experience that might lie outside the boundaries of the research protocol.


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