1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Cesagen · Research

Reconfigurations of Human-Animal Relations in Genomics and Beyond (ROAR)

Richard Twine

Start date

2002-04-01

Background

This project emerged from concerns within the field of animal genomics. It investigated the place of animals in bioethical discourse, and developed the idea of a ‘critical bioethics’ through the examination of the relationship between animal and human enhancement.

Aims

ROAR pursued a set of aims in relation to conceptual and empirical questions and their relation to policy. Most basically, the project mapped out animal genomics in order to yield a better picture of the potential impacts in the short and long term. By engaging with natural scientists it has considered how questions of social, economic and ethical context are framed and confronted by animal scientists themselves. Moreover it appraised the regulatory apparatus in the UK in relation to farm animal genomics. Finally the project was also a reflective interrogation of the capacities of social science itself conducted historically through an anthropocentric frame.

Findings

  • Generally the institutionalised discourse of bioethics provides insufficient space to fully represent views on animal ethics and the social, as opposed to instrumental, value of animals.
  • Due to links between human, animal and ecological health there is a need for a closer relationship between bioethics and environmental ethics. In this respect the red/green distinction was found to be unjustifiable and unsustainable.
  • Ethical frameworks should adapt to reflect how genomics and related knowledges break down and rationalize the efficiency of bodies across species boundaries.
  • A high level of awareness and ethical literacy was found amongst animal scientists interviewed. Ethical debate was present in the ‘canteen culture’ of animal scientists. Although scientists often see their work as part of social progress narratives such as improving agriculture, their work was found to be uniquely commercially embedded vis-à-vis other areas of science.
  • Significant points of conflict were found between animal geneticists and animal welfare scientists, which largely reflect broader debates on the future of agricultural paradigms and the moral value of agricultural animals.
  • Animal genomics may encourage a geneticisation of the animal; specifically of animal health, animal behaviour and animal welfare.
  • Animal geneticists tend to employ ‘continuity’ arguments in that prior or contemporary instrumental treatments of animals are seen to justify the application of new technologies.
  • Significantly, interview data revealed that genomics does extend the degree of control, precision and manipulative capacities of animal science. QTL mapping may also make a future move to GM more likely.
  • Genomics techniques are increasingly seen by commercial ventures as the safe option in light of continued opposition to GM.
  • Regulatory foresight of farm animal genomics was found to be minimal.


Further information

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