Species & Spaces

Understanding how species and clinical sites in animal research challenge established infrastructures, practices and cultures.

Based at the School of Geography and the Environment, at the University of Oxford, Species and Spaces seeks to understand the challenges that different and unusual species and sites introduce into animal research, and what these challenges might mean for established infrastructures, practices, and cultures of animal care.

Our research is concentrating into two streams. ‘Species’ focuses mainly on fish, and especially the ongoing explosion in the use zebrafish in research over the last two decades, as well as the so-called ‘higher invertebrates’, cephalopods and crustaceans. ‘Spaces’ examines research at Places Other Than Licensed Establishments (POLES), such as wildlife field projects, fisheries, farms, zoos, and veterinary clinics.

A number of broad questions guide our work: How do human-animal relationships influence the implementation of animal welfare regulations? How does the introduction and spread of different species and sites transform practices of ethical review, the 3Rs, animal care, and public engagement? How are the borders between regulated and unregulated research shaped by ideas about animal sentience and suffering, the ethics applied to different categories of animals (e.g., pets, wildlife, and farm animals), and definitions of science, veterinary treatment, and animal management?

We are approaching these questions using a combination of methods including documentary analyses, in-depth interviews with stakeholders (e.g. researchers, regulators, animal technicians, Named Persons, suppliers, regulators, and welfare charities), and participant observation in different settings in industry and university sectors.

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Laboratory animal science represents a challenging and controversial form of human-animal relations because its practice involves the deliberate and inadvertent harming and killing of animals. We propose that different notions of care are enacted alongside, not only permitted levels of harm inflicted on research animals following research protocols, but also harms to ATs in the processes of caring and killing animals.

This paper examines some underlying social factors and drivers that influence thinking, priorities and implementation of fish welfare initiatives and the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) for fish.  Drawing on original qualitative interviews with stakeholders, animal technologists and scientists who work with fish—especially zebrafish—to illustrate the case, it explores some key social factors influencing the take up of the 3Rs in this context.

These notes summarise some key topics of conversation at the workshop 'Out of the lab, into the field: Exploring animal research at POLEs', held on the 30th Sept-1st Oct, 2019, at Keble College, Oxford. Please feel free to share these notes with your colleagues and wider networks.

This paper draws on ethnographic work with laboratory animal technologists to offer insights into the skills required to study human–animal relations and the role played by storytelling in negotiating the contested moral economies of animal research.

This poster explores the increase in popularity of the zebrafish in animal research in the UK, raising questions about how the species is incorporated into and transforms animal research infrastructures and practices of care and welfare.

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Written by: Ally Palmer, Beth Greenhough
Written by: Ally Palmer, Beth Greenhough
Written by: Ally Palmer
Written by: Ally Palmer, Reuben Message, Beth Greenhough, Bentley Crudgington
Written by: Reuben Message
Written by: Sara Peres
Written by: Reuben Message, Bentley Crudgington

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