Controversies in Animal Experimentation – Contributions of Consensus Conferences and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory

Author: Ana Luiza Cerqueira Das Neves

Understanding the public perception regarding socio-scientific controversies is needed for a science communication that can be carried out in order to facilitate the understanding of sciences as social processes, and thereby to contribute to scientific literacy. This study aims to identify the public perception about the use of animals in scientific research, focusing in museum visitors. It also aims to understand what arguments influence and sustain these perceptions. The preliminary results indicate that the main differences regarding the agreement level to animal experimentation refer to gender aspects and pet ownership. Regarding gender, we found a higher level of agreement on the part of men. Knowing that men and women react differently to this question, and that this difference is related to more intrinsic issues, can help us to formulate communication actions that deepen and address conflicts that go beyond animal testing, but also include relevant socio-cultural aspects. In our analysis, regarding pet ownership, people who have pets tend to stand in contrast to animal testing that aims to save human lives. In addition, respondents who own pets tend to agree with the research on monkeys, mice and fish, but not with dogs and cats. From these results, we sought to understand and map the major conflicts involving discussions on the theme “animal experimentation”. These discussions unfold over the years, usually guided by the same arguments, and often reinforced by the media, which generally prompts people to choose one side. Initiatives that foster a greater social participation in discussion, reflection and decision-making concerning this controversial issue are rare in Brazil. For this reason, we want to bring to this scenario consensus conferences as a powerful tool for science communication related to controversial issues. We believe that a deliberative approach and participation of society are important elements to conflict solutions.