Presentation on theme: "Animal Controversies Animals, Bio-technology and Human Society"— Presentation transcript:
1 Animal Controversies Animals, Bio-technology and Human Society
2 This Week’s Lectures● The significance of bio-technology in late modern society.● The controversial use of animals in bio-technology.● Three social scientific analyses of animal controversies.● 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 boundaries?
3 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 fundamentally.The language (or ‘discourse’) of genetics is everywhere: DNA has come to be seen as the essence of an organism’s 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 terms.We therefore look to geneticists and scientific ‘experts’ to tell us ‘objectively’ what it means to be human.
4 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
5 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 society’s relationships with animals” (Phil McNaghten 2004, 534).“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.
6 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 society’s attitudes to science, nature and animals.
7 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 animals’.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).
8 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 needs.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 ageing.
9 ‘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 boundary.This raises all kinds of ethical, cultural and philosophical problems:- Are the resulting creatures humans or nonhumans?- Are they ‘humanimals’ (hybrids of human and animal)?- 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.
10 The Fear and Fascination of Monsters From Mary Shelley’s (1818) ‘Frankenstein’ to Ishiro Honda’s (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.
11 Animal Controversies 1: The OncoMouse™ On April 12th 1988, a patent was issued to genetics researchers at Harvard University for the world’s first patented animal – the OncoMouse™: A transgenic biomedical laboratory animal.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).
12 Donna Haraway’s 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 controversy?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 cancer).- A scientific research tool for building knowledge.- A commodity in the exchange-circuits of global capitalism.
13 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).
14 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 position.
15 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-technological formation which she calls ‘technoscience’.Haraway uses often fantastical language rich with metaphor and ambiguity in order to make this argument.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.
16 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.
17 Animal Controversies 2: Reconstructing Salmon Biology 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 nature.
18 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.
19 “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 it’s 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).
20 B) DNA ‘fingerprinting’: this allows for the quick identification of fish from different stocks. 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.
21 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?
22 Animal Controversies 3: ‘Dolly’ the Cloned Sheep ‘Dolly’ ( ) 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 transfer’.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 organism.This was the end result of years of research funded by the UK government at the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh.
23 ‘Dolly Mixtures’: Sarah Franklin’s 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 domestication- of the industrialization of livestock of reproductive bio-medicine
24 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 upon:- Including beliefs about nature, reproduction, scientific progress, and categories such as sex, gender, and species.Franklin argues that “Because Dolly’s 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’.
25 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, Franklin’s approach is not analytical enough, and perhaps not sociological enough.
26 Animal Controversies Animals, Bio-technology and Human Society
27 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’).
28 ‘Unnatural Kinds’? For and Against Respecting the Integrity of Species 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 humans.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 shouldn’t humans do so?– “What or who sanctifies?” (James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA)
29 …For and Against Respecting the Integrity of Species 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’).
30 ‘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 nature’s ‘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 terms.Adopts the discourse of the ‘unnatural’ as the ‘immoral’ or ‘unhealthy’ (where healthy = virtuous).
31 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 organisms.– The potential effects of genetically modified animals on the environment.– Human health and food safety concerns for meat or animal products derived from animal biotechnology.
32 Vital Interests? The Rights-Based Critique Opposes the genetic manipulation of animals and practices such as xenotransplantation on ethical grounds.Argues that these technologies violate the animals’ ‘vital interests’ - to ‘express their nature’, to be free from abuse, and not to be killed.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.
33 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’).
34 Bio-Politics? The Radical Critique Nikolas Rose (2007) – ‘The Politics of Life Itself’.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 pharmacology).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’.
35 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 built).For this reason, these bio-technological visions of the future are sociologically significant.
36 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 people’s 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.
37 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 construct.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.
38 The Disappearance of Nature? Bio-postmodernism In its most radical version this amounts to ‘bio-postmodernism’.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.
39 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 change).
40 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).
41 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’:
42 ‘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 nature)‘Consequentialist’ ethics: focuses on the possible consequences of the bio-technology, including:- the consequences of the technology for animal welfare- the possible risks to human health- the risks to the environment and genetic diversity
43 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.
44 His research suggests that people’s ‘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’).
45 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.
46 SummaryAnimals are frequently used in bio-tech research, a fact that generates deep public unease, which has in turn fed the controversies surrounding bio-technology.These controversies can be understood as a symptom of the tensions and contradictions at the heart of modern society’s relationships with animals.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 species.
47 SummaryThe 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 society’s 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.
48 SummaryBut public unease at the use of animals in bio-technology can also be seen as rooted in people’s 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, 78-9).