Exploring Compassion towards Laboratory Animals in UK- and China-Based Undergraduate Biomedical Sciences Students

Richard Fitzpatrick, Nicola Romanò, John Menzies*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Taking a compassionate approach to the non-human animals used in biomedical research is in line with emerging ideas around a “culture of care”. It is important to expose biomedical sciences students to the concept of a culture of care at an early stage and give them opportunities to explore related practices and ideas. However, there is no simple tool to explore biomedical sciences students’ attitudes towards laboratory animals. Accordingly, there is little understanding of students’ feelings towards these animals, or a means of quantifying potential changes to these feelings. We developed a 12-item questionnaire designed to explore compassion (the Laboratory Animal Compassion Scale; LACS) and used it with UK-based and China-based samples of undergraduate biomedical sciences students. In the same samples, we also explored a harm–benefit analysis task and students’ beliefs regarding some mental characteristics of laboratory animals, then drew correlations with the quantitative measure of compassion. Compassion levels were stable across years of study and were not related to students’ level of experience of working with laboratory animals. We observed a higher level of compassion in females versus males overall, and a higher level overall in the UK-based versus China-based sample. In a task pitting animal suffering against human wellbeing, students’ compassion levels correlated negatively with their acceptance of animal suffering. Compassion levels correlated positively with a belief in animals being conscious and possessing emotions. These data are in line with studies that show compassion is gender- and nationality/culture-dependent, and points to links between compassion, beliefs, and choices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3584
Number of pages16
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • laboratory animals
  • compassion
  • biomedical sciences
  • students
  • culture of care


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