In the UK, claims are often made that public support for animal research is stronger when such use is categorised as for medical purposes. Drawing on a qualitative analysis of writing from the Mass Observation Project, a national writing project documenting everyday life in Britain, this paper suggests that the necessity of using animals for medical research is not a given but understood relationally through interactions with inherent vulnerability. This paper stresses the ubiquity of ambivalence towards uses of animals for medical research, complicating what is meant by claims that such use is ‘acceptable’, and suggests that science-society dialogues on animal research should accommodate different modes of thinking about health. In demonstrating how understandings of health are bound up with ethical obligations to care for both human and non-human others, this paper reinforces the importance of interspecies relations in health and illness and in the socio-ethical dimensions of biomedicine.
When research animals become pets and pets become research animals: care, death, and animal classification
This paper explores what happens to care, and decisions about ending and extending life, when research animals become pets and pets become research animals. To do this, we draw on in- depth qualitative research on (i) rehoming of laboratory animals, (ii) veterinary clinical research, and (iii) the role of the Named Veterinary Surgeon (NVS) in UK animal research. Key contributions of our work include highlighting: how care roles can be split; the impor- tance of considering speculative and in-practice elements of care; the context-dependency and multiplicity of practices of killing in the veterinary clinic and laboratory; and the flexibility and changing nature of animal categories.
Critiquing imaginaries of ‘the public’ in UK dialogue around animal research: Insights from the Mass Observation Project
With an established history of controversy in the UK, the use of animals in science continues to generate significant socio-ethical discussion. Here, the figure of ‘the public’ plays a key role. However, dominant imaginaries of ‘the public’ have significant methodological and ethical problems. Examining these, this paper critiques three ways in which ‘the public’ is currently constructed in relation to animal research; namely as un- or mis-informed; homogenous; and holding fixed and extractable views. In considering an alternative to such imaginaries, we turn to the Mass Observation Project (MOP), a national life-writing project in the UK.
(Not) Knowing and (Not) Caring About Animal Research: An Analysis of Writing From the Mass Observation Project
Animal research remains a practice marked by controversy and moral dilemma. However, UK science-society dialogues on the issue are increasingly managed via one-way transmissions of information which construct publics as passive and attribute their concerns to a lack of ‘correct’ knowledge. Challenging such assumptions, this paper questions how and why people actively manage their interactions with animal research through entangled practices of knowing and caring. Based on an analysis of writing from the UK Mass Observation Project, this paper explores difficulties and discomforts associated with animal research which can cause strategic withdrawals from engagements with the topic. In doing so, it extends existing concepts of ‘uncomfortable knowledge’ (Rayner) and ‘strategic ignorance’ (McGoey) to develop novel concepts of ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘strategic’ care. Finally, in examining desires to respond to animal research, I engage with Haraway’s notion of ‘response-ability’ to introduce the concepts of ‘responsive caring’ and ‘responsive knowing’.
Exploring everyday relations with animal research: a sociological analysis of writing from the Mass Observation Project. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
This thesis explores how the topic of laboratory animal research is related to in everyday life in the UK, providing a sociological analysis of practices of knowing, caring, and constructing necessary biomedical uses of animals. In doing so, it develops the few qualitative studies of societal understandings of animal research, aiming to expand analyses in this area beyond measurement of polarised and static notions of acceptance or opposition. Instead, this thesis approaches understandings of animal research as relational and positional, emerging within particular yet shared social worlds which give the issue meaning in the everyday.
Locating the ‘culture wars’ in laboratory animal research: national constitutions and global competition
The increasingly global scope of biomedical research and testing using animals is generating disagreement over the best way to regulate laboratory animal science and care. Despite many common aims, the practices through which political and epistemic authority are allocated in the regulations around animal research varies internationally. This article proposes a framework for understanding and thinking across national differences in the regulation of animal research.