Regardless of the cultural, ethical, and religious tradition that one embraces, there is widespread agreement that animals should not be caused to suffer needlessly. This notion undeniably applies to research contexts, implying that there is an obligation that researchers have to consider the potential impact which their work can and will have on animal subjects. In order to conduct animal subjects research responsibly, the ethical and legal dimensions of research need to be clearly identified and examined before the relevant work is undertaken.
In accordance with U.S. federal law, institutions receiving federal funds are required to have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) that regulates and monitors research protocols involving the use of vertebrate animal subjects. A primary responsibility of an IACUC is to determine whether researchers are treating animal subjects in an ethically and legally appropriate manner. Federal regulations and institutional policies stipulate, for example, that researchers should consider whether alternative methods, such as computer simulations, could be used for their research.