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Animal Controversies Animals, Bio-technology and Human Society


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Title: Animal Controversies Animals, Bio-technology and Human Society

Animal Controversies Animals, Bio-technology and
Human Society
This Weeks Lectures
  • ? The significance of bio-technology in late
    modern society.
  • ? The controversial use of animals in
  • ? Three social scientific analyses of animal
  • ? Moral, ethical, social, and radical critiques
    of animal bio-technology.
  • ? Envisaging bio-technological futures.
  • ? Public attitudes and official ethics.
  • ? The reshaping of global nature-cultures.
  • Key Questions
  • - What do the controversies surrounding the use
    of animals in bio-technology tell us about late
    modern society and culture?
  • - How does the genetic modification of animals
    challenge our conventional separation of nature
    and society?
  • - How do the new genetics and bio-technologies
    impact upon our sense of human/animal species

Late Modernity and Bio-technology
  • We live in age of bio-technology the media
    regularly report scientific breakthroughs which
    seem to promise to change our lives
  • The language (or discourse) of genetics is
    everywhere DNA has come to be seen as the
    essence of an organisms individuality, the
    code for life itself (genetic determinism).
  • With the development of human and animal
    genomics (the mapping of whole gene sequences)
    our humanity is increasingly defined in genetic
  • We therefore look to geneticists and scientific
    experts to tell us objectively what it means
    to be human.

Challenging Human Identity
  • But the prevalence of genetic discourse has
    caused problems for the modern (anthropocentric)
    distinction between humans and nonhuman animals.
  • E.g. Genomic research has revealed that we share
    98.7 of our genes with chimps, so in strictly
    genetic terms not only are chimps essentially
    human, but humans are basically chimps.
  • But this is just one of a whole series of
    challenges posed by new bio-technologies to
  • - the human/animal boundary
  • - the culture/nature distinction

  • These challenges are sharpest where animals are
    used in biotechnology
  • It is clear that the prospect pf applying
    genetic biotechnology to animals raises
    particular public sensitivities, and that
    existing and current applications have
    far-reaching ramifications for societys
    relationships with animals (Phil McNaghten 2004,
  • The science of genomics and the manipulation of
    animal genomes raises novel issues and promotes
    new ways of thinking about what animals are, how
    they involve and relate to each other, and the
    social and biological relationships between
    humans and animals (Matthew Harvey 2007, 1).
  • So the genetic modification of animals and their
    use in biotechnology raises complex and difficult
    issues for sociology.

The Use of Nonhuman Animals in Science
  • Animals are commonplace in bio-technological
    research, as principal objects of study or as
    conduits and models for understanding human
    biology (Matthew Harvey 2007, 1).
  • But like slaughterhouses or animal testing
    laboratories, the use of animals in
    bio-technology is almost invisible in everyday
    social life.
  • We are dimly aware of these sciences, but we
    prefer not to acknowledge them they are an
    absent presence.
  • Whereas most people are straightforwardly opposed
    to cosmetics testing on animals, the use of
    animals in bio-technological research with
    possible medical benefits to humans is something
    many people feel deeply ambiguous about.
  • This ambiguity highlights the tensions and
    contradictions in modern societys attitudes to
    science, nature and animals.

Reshaping Animal Biology How are Animals used
in Bio-technology?
  • Xenotransplantation/transgenesis the
    transplantation of living cells, tissues or
    organs from one species to another (e.g. from
    pigs or cows to humans) to produce transgenic
  • Uses Proposed as a means to solve the long-term
    problem of huge demand for transplant organs and
    lack of availability of human donors in cases of
    end-stage human organ failure (heart, liver,
    kidney and lung failure).
  • Problems As well as ethical issues there are
    many technical difficulties Risk of
    xenozoonosis (transfer of animal diseases to
    humans via the transplant), and high incidence of
    immune rejection (due to different DNA).

  • Animal Genomics the mapping of animal gene
    sequences in order to build up a complete
    picture of the genetic identity of a species.
  • Uses sufficiently extensive gene-mapping will
    dramatically assist selective breeding, the
    control of animal stocks, and could even enable
    the reprogramming of organisms according to
    commercial, agricultural, scientific or medical
  • Problems critics argue that these levels of
    knowledge and control of animal biology will lead
    to an intensification of exploitation.
  • Animal Cloning cloning is the production of a
    new, genetically identical individual from a
    single parent animal.
  • Uses - sometimes seen as a promising tool for
    preserving endangered species, as well as
    producing transgenic animals for medical research
    and agriculture.
  • Problems cloned animals seem to have
    considerably shortened lifespans, possibly due to
    shortened telomeres, which equate to premature

Humanimals? The Spectre of Hybrids
  • Xenotransplantation (the insertion of human
    genes, cells or organs into nonhuman animals,
    and/or vice-versa) appears to represent a
    fundamental transgression of the human/animal
  • This raises all kinds of ethical, cultural and
    philosophical problems
  • - Are the resulting creatures humans or
  • - Are they humanimals (hybrids of human and
  • - On what basis can we classify them?
  • - What is their moral status?
  • These issues are sharpened by the fact that the
    main use of these humanimals is for laboratory
    tests and medical research.

The Fear and Fascination of Monsters
  • From Mary Shelleys (1818) Frankenstein to
    Ishiro Hondas (1954) Godzilla, modern cultures
    have consistently used monsters, mutants, and
    hybrids as potent cultural symbols.
  • These abominations allow us to reassert our
    classifications, our ideas of the natural and
    normal, precisely by violating them because
    our rejection of these freaks reinforces our
    belief that what is unnatural is also immoral
    (this is the function of taboo).
  • But monsters are also more ambiguous, because the
    conjuring of such hybrids in the imagination of
    science fiction is usually a fantastical comment
    on real developments in science (e.g. Shelley on
    19thC medicine and anatomy).
  • So monsters represent our deepest anxieties about
    modern science but also our awareness of its
    creative power.

Animal Controversies 1 The OncoMouse
  • On April 12th 1988, a patent was issued to
    genetics researchers at Harvard University for
    the worlds first patented animal the
    OncoMouse A transgenic biomedical laboratory
  • Licensed by Harvard to the bio-tech corporation
    Du Pont, and marketed by Charles River
    Laboratories in Massachussets.
  • The OncoMouse is a genetically engineered mouse
    which contains in each of its cells a gene for
    cancer (an oncogene) which it passes on to all
    of its offspring
  • OncoMouse reliably develops neo-plasms
    (tumours) within months and offers you a shorter
    path to answers about cancer (Du Pont advert in
    Science magazine, April 1990).

Donna Haraways Analysis
  • Buying and selling, breeding and selecting,
    experimenting on, and contesting the treatment of
    laboratory animals are not new activities, but
    the controversies surrounding the patenting and
    marketing of the Harvard mouse were densely
    covered in the popular and scientific press in
    Europe and the US (1997, 80).
  • So why did the OncoMouse generate so much
  • Donna Haraway (1997) suggests that the OncoMouse
    is many things at once
  • - A living animal (and an object of global animal
    rights discourses).
  • - An animal model for cancer (especially breast
  • - A scientific research tool for building
  • - A commodity in the exchange-circuits of global

OncoMouse as Vampire
  • But above all Haraway argues that the OncoMouse
    is a powerful symbol of the significant traffic
    between the categories of nature and culture
    (1997, 79).
  • This is what makes the OncoMouse a vampire
  • Her status as an invention who/which remains a
    living animal is what makes her a vampire,
    subsisting in the realms of the undead (79).
  • What is a Vampire?
  • A narrative figure which signifies the crossing
    of natural boundaries (between living/dead,
    subject/object, human/nonhuman).
  • The essence of vampires is the pollution of
    natural kinds (80).

  • So vampires are inherently ambiguous they are
    figures of violation (of taboo), but also of
    possibility (of immortality).
  • Haraway points out that Desire and fear are the
    appropriate reactions to vampires (1917, 80).
  • i.e. we fear vampires because they challenge our
    distinctions between what is natural and
    cultural, and what is human and nonhuman.
  • This suggests that genetically engineered
    creatures like the OncoMouse are controversial
    because they destabilise our sense of what it
    means to be human
  • They are like us enough to be useful, but unlike
    us enough to be used a highly contradictory

Feminist Technoscience Understanding Haraway
  • Haraway uses real and allegorical cases with
    potent symbolic significance to illustrate her
    essential point
  • i.e. that nature and culture, science and
    politics, biology and capitalism, humans and
    animals, are perpetually combined and recombined
    within the late modern social-economic-technologic
    al formation which she calls technoscience.
  • Haraway uses often fantastical language rich with
    metaphor and ambiguity in order to make this
  • Significantly, Haraway is neither a social
    constructivist nor a critical realist, because
    she acknowledges both the semiotics (symbolic
    cultural meanings) and the materiality (actual
    biology and natural properties) of the entities
    she discusses.

  • For Haraway the OncoMouse signifies a world in
    which nature and culture are spliced together
    and enterprised up (1997, 85).
  • Another metaphorical entity Haraway uses to
    express this is the cyborg A fusion of the
    human being with technology.
  • She also incorporates established socialist and
    feminist concerns by stressing that these
    vampires and cyborgs are also
  • - commodities within a global capitalist system.
  • - beings located within a cultural system of
    gendered meanings.
  • - sentient beings with which we share our
    existence and to which we often owe a great deal
    (e.g. the OncoMouse as suffering Christ figure).
  • So Haraway shows how all these elements are
    brought together by technoscience in complex
    combinations that demand an innovative
    socialist-feminist politics which is attentive to
    our kinship (close relations) with other animals.

Animal Controversies 2 Reconstructing Salmon
  • Rik Scarce (2000) Fishy Business Salmon,
    Biology, and the Social Construction of Nature.
  • - traces how salmon biologists socially
    construct salmon.
  • But Scarce acknowledges that salmon biologists do
    not construct salmon just as they please, but
    in the context of struggles between
  • - scientific freedom and commercial pressures
  • - researchers and managers
  • - biologists and environmental campaigners
  • - laboratories and fisheries
  • - communities and even between countries.
  • So salmon are a site for multiple social
    struggles over the meaning (and the control) of

Genetically Modified Salmon
  • These struggles are particularly pronounced over
    the issue of genetically modified salmon.
  • Because the gene-mapping of salmon has both
    biological and economic implications
  • Once the genes are mapped, complete, widespread
    tooling of the genetic make-up of salon will be
    possible (2000, 117).
  • This will allow several techniques
  • A) The creation of triploids these are salmon
    with 3 sets of chromosomes rather than the usual
    2, making them sterile.
  • Producing triploids has the advantage of
    increasing the chances of survival of
    inter-species hybrids.

  • For example, you can cross a rainbow trout
    female with a coho salmon male, and normally none
    of the offspring will survive. But if you make a
    triploid, and we usually do that by heat treating
    the eggs at a specific temperature shortly after
    fertilization, you can make a fish that survives
    which is two-thirds rainbow trout and one third
    coho salmon. So its interesting then, to study
    their characteristics, to see if they have some
    interesting traits (Alex Stand salmon
    geneticist, in Rik Scarce 2000, 117).
  • This may be deeply objectionable to
    anti-geneticists and animal rights activists, but
    triploids also have a conservation use
  • The production of sterile fish can be a way to
    prevent farmed salmon from interbreeding with
    wild fish if they escape and changing their
    genetic make-up, a significant bio-diversity risk
    (esp. in Scotland and Canada).

  • B) DNA fingerprinting this allows for the
    quick identification of fish from different
  • This technique also has seemingly contradictory
    (commercial and conservation) uses.
  • E.g. genetic techniques may be valuable for
    answering conservation-related questions such as
    the differences that develop over time between
    farmed and wild salmon.
  • So the issues around genetic modification are not
    clear cut, and Rik Scarce views genetically
    modified salmon as a site of social struggle and
    contested meanings.
  • Especially a struggle to control and appropriate
    salmon biology between conservationist vs.
    industrial-commercial interests.
  • From this perspective the technology itself may
    be neutral it is a question of who controls the
    technology and who determines how it is used.

  • Rik Scarce argues that the trend towards genetic
    modification is unstoppable because it offers new
    ways of understanding (and therefore controlling)
    salmon, which are useful to many social groups
    with different agendas.
  • This means that increasingly salmon will not only
    be socially constructed through struggles over
    their meaning and use, but also physically
    reconstructed by humans.
  • The knowledge being created represents the
    possibility of a level of control over the salmon
    that only a few years ago was unimaginable The
    industrialized construction of salmon will then
    be complete. Salmon will have two identities.
    They will still be fish, but they also will have
    been reproduced by society as entirely new
    entities, new social facts (Scarce 2000, 120).
  • So will salmon then be natural creatures or
    social inventions?
  • Will they be hybrids of nature and society?

Animal Controversies 3 Dolly the Cloned Sheep
  • Dolly (1996-2003) was the first animal to be
    cloned from an adult somatic cell (as distinct
    from the gamete cells from which embryos
    normally develop) using the process of nuclear
  • Somatic Cell Nuclear transfer removing the DNA
    from an unfertilized egg, and injecting a nucleus
    containing the DNA to be cloned. Theoretically
    the newly constructed cell will then replicate
    the inserted DNA, and if placed in the uterus of
    a female mammal a cloned organism will develop.
  • The successful production of Dolly proved that a
    cell taken from a specific body part (a mammary
    gland hence the name Dolly, i.e. Dolly
    Parton) could be used to recreate a whole
  • This was the end result of years of research
    funded by the UK government at the Roslin
    Institute, Edinburgh.

Dolly Mixtures Sarah Franklins Analysis
  • Sarah Franklin (2007) Dolly Mixtures The
    Remaking of Genealogy.
  • Genealogy a complex lineage or line of descent
    in which a single element is the product of
    multiple influences, like a family tree.
  • Franklin (p. 2) suggests that Dolly is a mixture
    not only because she embodies a novel technique
    for combining genes and cells but because she
    constitutes the outcome of a lengthy and complex
    historical and biological genealogy as an
    experimentally bred sheep.
  • For Franklin Dolly is the product of multiple
    overlapping histories
  • - of the colonial wool trade - of animal
  • - of the industrialization of livestock - of
    reproductive bio-medicine

  • Franklin calls Dolly a bio-cultural entity.
  • Bio-cultural emphasizes the inseparability of
    bio-technologies from the systems of meaning
    (culture) that they both reproduce and depend
  • - Including beliefs about nature, reproduction,
    scientific progress, and categories such as sex,
    gender, and species.
  • Franklin argues that Because Dollys assisted
    creation out of technologically altered cells
    confirms the viability of new forms of coming
    into being, of procreation, her existence can be
    seen to redefine the limits of the biological,
    with implications for how both sex and
    reproduction are understood and practiced.
    (2007, 5).
  • i.e. Dolly challenges our understanding of
    biology as simply natural.

The Method of Mixtures Assessing Franklin
  • Dolly Mixtures traces with great skill how the
    cloned sheep in question is the outcome of
    complex intersections of international
    capitalism, colonial history, animal
    domestication, agricultural science, selective
    breeding and bio-technology.
  • However Like Donna Haraway, Franklin could be
    accused of being content to simply describe
    connections without really analysing them,
    without identifying underlying structures,
    hierarchies of causes, etc.
  • Like Haraway she weaves a very skilfully and
    vividly written tapestry, but it seems to have no
    central critical point.
  • From this point of view, Franklins approach is
    not analytical enough, and perhaps not
    sociological enough.

Animal Controversies Animals, Bio-technology and
Human Society
From Natural Selection to Genetic Manipulation A
Radical Break?
  • The distinction between older methods of
    selective breeding and genetic modification is
    not absolute.
  • Arguably human selection (breeding) is already a
    break from nature (natural selection) and
    genetics is only a step further.
  • From this point of view the difference is mainly
    one of time genetic techniques allow much faster
    selection of desirable qualities.
  • However, genetic technologies such as
    xenotransplantation transgress species boundaries
    in a way that selective breeding could never do
    (so a stronger argument can perhaps be made that
    these technologies create unnatural kinds).

Unnatural Kinds? For and Against Respecting the
Integrity of Species
  • Against
  • A common public view is that science should not
    interfere with the building blocks of nature,
    and should therefore respect the integrity of
    species rather than modifying them to suit
  • But Darwin showed that species are not fixed
    entities, they are always changing and
    continually shaped by their environment.
  • He also showed that evolution is not governed by
    any grand plan given by God or nature, but
    merely by a struggle for survival.
  • So if natural selection already interferes with
    species, then why shouldnt humans do so?
  • What or who sanctifies? (James Watson,
    co-discoverer of DNA)

For and Against Respecting the Integrity of
  • For
  • Current species are the product of countless
    millennia of adaptation to the environment
    through natural selection.
  • Therefore the fact that species are not fixed for
    eternity does not mean that they are constantly
    shifting the time-scale involved in species
    evolution is immense.
  • This difference in time-scales between natural
    selection and genetic modification should induce
    some human modesty.
  • The speed of genetic modification could lead to
    disastrous unanticipated consequences (re The
    Risk Society).

Going Against Nature The Essentialist Critique
  • Rooted in a religious worldview and also
    influenced by romanticism.
  • Views nature as sacrosanct (God-given)
  • human meddling with natures design (i.e.
    with the integrity of nature) is immoral,
    arrogant and bound to disaster.
  • Interprets the difference between selective
    breeding and genetic modification in absolute
  • Adopts the discourse of the unnatural as the
    immoral or unhealthy (where healthy

Bio-technological Risk?
  • Animal biotechnology faces a variety of
    uncertainties, safety issues and potential risks.
  • E.g. concerns have been raised regarding
  • The use of vectors (i.e. viruses designed to
    transfer DNA into an organism) with the potential
    to be transferred to gene sequences of other
  • The potential effects of genetically modified
    animals on the environment.
  • Human health and food safety concerns for meat
    or animal products derived from animal

Vital Interests? The Rights-Based Critique
  • Opposes the genetic manipulation of animals and
    practices such as xenotransplantation on ethical
  • Argues that these technologies violate the
    animals vital interests - to express their
    nature, to be free from abuse, and not to be
  • Rejects the notion that the use of animals in
    science should be based on finding a balance
    between human interests and animal welfare.
    Instead sees the rights of animals as
    equivalent in principle to human rights (e.g.
    Peter Singer).
  • Suggests that the increasing use of animals in
    bio-technology represents a step backwards from
    civilised values (re Elias), towards an
    increasing tolerance of cruelty and mistreatment.

Genomic Capitalism? The Social Critique
  • Less concerned with the essential immorality or
    ethics of genetic technologies and more concerned
    with how social structures of inequality are
    likely to determine their use.
  • Points to the legacy of eugenics (scientific
    racism) in the new genetic technologies (The
    Bell Curve).
  • Envisages unequal access to genetic technologies
    based on disparities of wealth (e.g. life
    extension for the wealthy).
  • Points to the political control and social
    engineering implications of genomic technologies
    (Brave New World).

Bio-Politics? The Radical Critique
  • Nikolas Rose (2007) The Politics of Life
  • Focuses on how genomics and bio-tech science are
    being driven by powerful corporate capitalist
    interests, so much so that we are seeing the
    emergence of a bio-capitalism.
  • Argues that these new forms of knowledge are also
    creating new possibilities for the social control
    of populations by political authorities, in a
    widespread politicization of life itself
    (through biomedicine, biotechnology, and
  • Suggests that these new form of bio-power are
    leading to new definitions of what it means to be
    human, in emerging forms of bio-citizenship.

Scientist Fiction Bio-technological Utopias
  • Supporters of genomics and bio-technology often
    conjure up spectacular futures in which all kinds
    of human limitations have been transcended.
  • It conjures up worlds where disease will be
    precisely targeted, human ageing retarded, and
    biology re-written (Tim May 2007).
  • E.g. Will our children live to be 160? Will the
    replacement of damaged human body parts become
    routine maintenance? (Forum 2006).
  • But whilst it is easy to dismiss these futurist
    visions, they are neither a matter of fact nor
    pure hype, but they occupy the space in-between,
    where new worlds are imagined (and sometimes
  • For this reason, these bio-technological visions
    of the future are sociologically significant.

Nightmare Visions Bio-technological Dystopias
  • Aldous Huxley (1932) Brave New World.
  • Huxley imagined a future in which humans are
    biologically engineered in test tubes to be
    adapted to certain roles according to a rigid
    social hierarchy which cannot be challenged
    because it is entrenched in peoples biology.
  • E.g. workers destined to perform the most mundane
    and repetitive tasks were given doses of alcohol
    whilst at a critical stage of foetal development
    to inhibit mental ability.
  • This kind of scenario may seem fantastical, but
    critical sociologists point to the very real
    potential that genomics and bio-technology will
    be used for (or lead to) the reproduction and
    extension of social control and inequality.

Culture Without Limits?
  • For strict social constructionism, bio-technology
    signals the end of nature as a set of natural
    limits to the possibilities of human culture.
  • On this view life itself has become socially
    and culturally malleable or plastic.
  • This means that there really is no fixed nature
    beyond what humans socially and technologically
  • For social constructionists like Rik Scarce
    (2000) this underlines the need to understand
    nature in terms of how it is socially
    interpreted, used and understood.

The Disappearance of Nature? Bio-postmodernism
  • In its most radical version this amounts to
  • i.e. the argument that humans now have the
    technological potential to fully transcend their
    natural and biological limitations.
  • Bio-postmodernism suggests that we are free from
    the constraints of nature and can now re-shape
    the world and ourselves according to our desires.
  • i.e. We have become metaphorical cyborgs
    (hybrids of nature and technology) who can
    re-program our own nature at will.
  • This takes the idea of reflexivity (our ability
    to reflect upon and change our own actions) and
    extends it into our biological nature, so that
    humans are viewed as wholly self-creating beings.

The Persistence of Nature A Realist Response
  • But critical realists argue that the reality of
    the new genetic and bio-technologies is far more
    modest than the exaggerations of scientists and
    media commentators often suggest.
  • Biology remains overwhelmingly a domain of
    unalterable facts which humans have very limited
    control over.
  • Bio-technology is beset with all kinds of
    problems, risks and potential for unintended
    consequences it rarely lives up to its promise
    and is not miracle science.
  • Critical realists point to the irony of our
    hubris (over-confidence) at a time when human
    societies are globally threatened by a natural
    phenomenon beyond our control (i.e. climate

A Sceptical Account Scientific Hyperbole vs.
Modest Realities
  • Despite its symbolic significance the OncoMouse
    was unsuccessful as a technoscientific commodity
    it never sold very widely, even at a
    loss-making price.
  • Despite the ambitious language of genomics, only
    very small sections of animal gene sequences have
    as yet been mapped. The ambition of total
    gene-mapping is far from realisation.
  • For all the controversy it has generated,
    xenotransplantation has only been used to
    substitute human organ function for short periods
    (with constant medical intervention) whilst
    waiting for human organs it may never be viable
    for long-term animal to human transplants.
  • Dolly the sheep was the only clone in 277 similar
    attempts to survive into adulthood, and then
    lived for only 6 years, barely half of the normal
    life expectancy for a sheep (12-15 years).

Animal Controversies Public Attitudes and
Official Ethics
  • Phil McNaghten (2004) Argues that the core
    reason for public controversy over GM animals is
    that they symbolize and give voice to underlying
    tensions between moral and instrumental
    approaches to animals (2004, 533).
  • McNaghten notes that expert advocates of animal
    bio-technology such as the UK Agricultural and
    Environmental Biotechnology Commission (AEBC)
    have acknowledged the need to take public
    concerns into account in order to effectively
    extend the use of GM animals.
  • But he criticizes official bodies for classifying
    public ethical concerns as either deontological
    or utilitarian

  • Deontological ethics focuses on the
    intrinsic rightness or wrongness of the
    bio-technology, including
  • - the idea that it is blasphemous (playing
    God with nature)
  • - the idea that it is unnatural (breaches
    species boundaries)
  • - the idea that it is disrespectful (violates
    the right of the organism to express its own
  • Consequentialist ethics focuses on the
    possible consequences of the bio-technology,
  • - the consequences of the technology for animal
  • - the possible risks to human health
  • - the risks to the environment and genetic

  • On this basis official reports into public
    concerns tend to dismiss what they call
    deontological concerns as based on a
    naturalistic fallacy.
  • Naturalistic Fallacy an irrational belief
    in God-given natural barriers between species,
    which gene transfer technologies are believed to
    violate, when in fact the same genetic outcomes
    can be achieved (much more slowly) through
    selective breeding.
  • This argument is used by official bodies such as
    the AEBC to marginalise public concerns.
  • But McNaghten argues that this framework for
    understanding public concerns over animal
    bio-technology is too narrow and therefore
    misrepresents public attitudes.

  • His research suggests that peoples
    deontological attitudes to the use of animals
    in biotechnology are not based on a naturalistic
    fallacy but upon the embodied social practices
    which connect particular social groups and
    individuals with animals.
  • i.e. the activities through which different kinds
    of people experience and reflect upon animals in
    their daily lives.
  • E.g. as pets, in sport, as wild creatures, as
    prey, and as subjects of scientific research.
  • McNaghten also argues that what official bodies
    call consequentialist ethical attitudes reveal
    deep public unease and distrust of how
    bio-technoscience is institutionally regulated
    and governed
  • The misgivings people express towards the
    applications of GM animal technologies appear to
    be reflections of broader syndromes of mistrust
    towards those institutions seen as responsible
    for such applications (2004, 547). (Re Ulrich
    Beck The Risk Society).

Summary The Remaking of Global Nature-Cultures
  • Late modernity has seen the emergence of
    biotechnology and genetics as new and powerful
    ways of knowing and acting upon nature.
  • These developments are not just important for
    science, but also have very significant
    social/sociological implications.
  • The discourse (language) of genetics has
    permeated deeply into our society and culture, so
    that we increasingly view the world and ourselves
    in terms of genetics.
  • These developments have challenged
    anthropocentric definitions of human identity,
    which elevate humans above the nonhuman world of
    animals and nature.

  • Animals are frequently used in bio-tech research,
    a fact that generates deep public unease, which
    has in turn fed the controversies surrounding
  • These controversies can be understood as a
    symptom of the tensions and contradictions at the
    heart of modern societys relationships with
  • Public attitudes to the use of animals in
    biotechnology are typically mixed and deeply
    ambiguous, but there is a consistent feeling that
    the genetic manipulation of animals is going
    against nature.
  • This is rooted in the idea that animal
    bio-technology produces unnatural kinds which
    transgress the natural boundaries between

  • The common fear of unnatural kinds is part of a
    long history of social taboo, in which
    monsters of one kind or another have served to
    reinforce societys notions of the natural and
    normal, and its boundaries between the human
    and the nonhuman.
  • They can also be seen as part of a naturalistic
    fallacy which regards species boundaries as
    fixed, God-given, and inviolable.
  • This in turn supports anthropocentric definitions
    of human identity as essentially separate from
    and superior to other animals.
  • The controversy generated by the hybrids
    produced in biotechnologies such as
    xenotransplantation and cloning can therefore be
    understood as reactions to the challenge hybrids
    pose to this sense of human identity.

  • But public unease at the use of animals in
    bio-technology can also be seen as rooted in
    peoples everyday relationships with animals
    their embodied social practices. This is
    usually overlooked by official ethics committees.
  • Equally, there are various different kinds of
    critique that can be made of bio-technology, from
    animal rights positions to radical critiques of
    bio-capitalism and bio-politics. These are
    not all reducible to a naturalistic fallacy.
  • The ills that afflict most human beings now and
    in the foreseeable future require no high tech
    solutions merely clean water, sufficient food,
    a living wage, and moderately competent
    politicians and bureaucrats and they are
    unlikely to be significantly ameliorated by
    developments in biomedicine (Nikolas Rose 2007,