Gail Davies, Caring for the multiple and the multitude: assembling animal welfare and enabling ethical critique
July 16, 2012 Leave a comment
Abstract. This paper constitutes a speculative bioethical intervention into the challenge of developing cultures of care and assembling enriched environments for genetically altered mice in laboratory environments. The principles of the 3Rs—to reduce, replace, and refine the use of laboratory animals—established in the late 1950s, are still the institutional and international starting point for humane animal experimentation. However, the proliferating diversity and numbers of genetically altered animals used in biomedical research are a challenge to the application of these universal principles. The different capacities of the many mice brought into being through scientific practices constitute biomedical experimentation as a multiple, challenging the identification of universal refinements. In this paper I argue that these capacities constitute a multitude: their indefinite number and irreducible multiplicity are both a threat to these principles and an opening to the possibility of new bioethical formulations. Drawing on ethnographic research with scientists and policy makers involved in animal welfare and biomedical research, this paper explores emerging strategies for reassembling animal welfare in the face of the multitude and the multiple. By using insights from Žižek, Haraway, and Hinchliffe, it aims to demonstrate the value of a speculative ethics, which, instead of seeking new universal principles to protect animals from harm, starts from the inevitable and particular entanglements of animal and human suffering, as a way of connecting affective capacities across space and time. This is illustrated through the experimental conjunctures of barbering mice. In conclusion, I suggest that such speculative bioethical formulations may contribute to renarrating modes of ethical engagement when sociotechnical assemblages are complex, objects and ontological forms are multiple and mutable, data are simultaneously abundant and inadequate, and formal ethical review procedures are incapable of either containing controversy or enabling critique.
Keywords:animal welfare, animal research, 3Rs, biotechnology, care, ethics, excess, multiplicity, multitude, speculative critique
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