In recent years, there has been growing sentiment outside of the research community that too many animals suffer ‘needlessly’ in experiments. Furthermore, an increasing number of researchers speak of the moral ‘costs’ of such work and raise doubts about its value, at least for answering certain questions. Researchers working with animals have increasingly been called upon to engage the moral dimensions of their work and to communicate the importance of animal research for continued scientific progress in areas that matter to members of the general public, such as advances in medicines and vaccines. Even so, there are barriers to broadening the scope of ethical engagement within animal research practices, which are important to acknowledge. Here, we briefly discuss those barriers and provide some potential practical solutions to address them.