Current regulations and widely accepted principles for animal research focus on minimizing the burdens and harms of research on animals. However, these regulations and principles do not consider a possible role for assent or dissent in animal research. Should investigators solicit the assent or respect the dissent of animals who are used in research, and, if so, under what circumstances? In this article we pursue this question and outline the relevant issues that bear on the answer. We distinguish two general reasons for respecting the preferences of research participants regarding whether they participate in research—welfare-based reasons and agency-based reasons. We argue that there are welfare-based reasons for researchers to consider, and in some cases respect, the dissent of all animals used in research. After providing a brief account of the nature of agency-based reasons, we argue that there is good reason to think that these reasons apply to at least chimpanzees. We argue that there is an additional reason for researchers to respect the dissent—and, when possible, solicit the assent—of any animal to whom agency-based reasons apply.
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