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Morality, emotions, and expectations of care in zebrafish aquariums
Reuben Message

Zebrafish are one of the most important species used in contemporary bioscience research. As vertebrates, they have, in the UK, the same legal or welfare protections as other commonly used animals like rats, mice, and rabbits. However, the human–animal relationships that emerge between animal technologists and zebrafish are different to the case of relations between terrestrial mammals. What does this mean in terms of care relations? Specifically, this chapter investigates how animal technologists who work with fish (aquarists) navigate the disjuncture between their embodied experiences of caring for zebrafish and the social expectations around empathy and inter-species bonding that increasingly accompany regulatory discourses and ideas of professional identity and responsibility in the wider animal technology and welfare arena. In this light, the chapter focuses on how aquarists conceive of and present themselves as moral agents in the relative absence of the kinds of emotional attachment typically seen as desirable, and the experience of which might normally be expected to act as signs of moral and professional virtue. Concretely then, this paper empirically investigates some of the quotidian activities, attitudes, and modes of speaking adopted by aquarists who, like all animal technologists, wish to do good and be perceived as doing so – despite the ambivalence of their personal experiences and the specificity of human–fish relations in the research aquarium.

in Researching animal research
Open Access (free)
Gail Davies
,
Beth Greenhough
,
Pru Hobson-West
,
Robert G. W. Kirk
, and
Alexandra Palmer

The Animal Research Nexus Programme (AnNex) used methods from the social sciences and humanities to deliver new research and engagement on the social aspects of animal research. AnNex took place across five UK universities from 2017 to 2023 and involved six distinct but interrelated strands of work. These were: 1) History and Cultures, focusing on the recent history of animal research in the UK; 2) Species and Spaces, examining new species and sites in animal research; 3) Markets and Materials, exploring the breeding, supply, and rehoming of research animals; 4) People and Professions, investigating how professionals, including veterinarians, are seen by wider publics and vice versa; 5) Engagement and Involvement, charting the changing interfaces between patient representatives and those who use animals in research; and 6) Collaboration and Communication, using nexus thinking to engage stakeholders, publics, and researchers from different disciplines in productive dialogue. This chapter explores the disciplinary and conceptual trajectories that underpinned our research together, introduces the range of organisations and actors that animal research involves, and outlines the methods we used to engage these in our work. We explain the emerging themes used to organise this book, introducing chapters under the headings of ‘Changing and implementing regulation’, ‘Culturing and sustaining care’, ‘Distributing expertise and accountability’, and ‘Experimenting with openness and engagement’. We reflect on what we learnt by collaborating with those within and outside of the animal research community, introducing the stakeholder commentaries in this book that enrich our understanding of the animal research nexus.

in Researching animal research
Exploring assumptions around patient involvement in animal research
Gail Davies
,
Richard Gorman
, and
Gabrielle King

This chapter asks how we can move beyond assumptions that impede patient involvement in research using animals in the UK. It proposes that there are a set of common but contradictory assumptions influencing contemporary patterns of patient involvement around animal research. These can be encapsulated through paraphrasing different people's suggestions that 1) ‘patients don’t want to know about the use of animals’; 2) ‘patients will always support this research’; 3) ‘patients don’t have relevant expertise to contribute’; and 4) ‘patients won’t make a difference to animal research’. The chapter explores these assumptions through in-depth qualitative interviews with patient representatives, scientific researchers, and involvement professionals who have experience of patient involvement in research using animals. The analysis highlights the changing way that patient voices and experiences have been brought into conversations around animal research, from the challenges of being aligned with publicly mediated controversies to the complexities of being involved in setting research priorities. The chapter identifies opportunities for future exchanges that make more space to listen to patient voices and different perspectives in biomedical research.

in Researching animal research
Renelle McGlacken
and
Pru Hobson-West

In the UK, societal dialogue around animal research remains limited, with few opportunities for individuals to publicly discuss the topic or feed into policy decision-making processes. Although partly intended to enhance public dialogue, existing openness and transparency initiatives in the UK bioscience sector have largely focused on unidirectional transmissions of information. To develop an activity to promote dialogue amongst publics and stakeholders, this chapter focused on medicine consumption as a material, everyday, and localised practice, aiming to avoid treating animal research as a distant matter reserved for experts. It also considers the policy proposal to include information about scientific animal use in labels on medicine packaging as a mechanism for educating publics and improving support for animal research. The chapter discusses and critically reflects on the experience of planning and facilitating an activity on the topic of medicine labelling, which ran four times between 2019 and 2021. Overall, the topic of labelling medicines has potential as a route into engagement with animal research. However, as a policy initiative it does not, as may have been assumed by some proponents, offer a clear solution to a perceived problem. Rather, it generates further questions and conversations around how openness regarding animal research is navigated and enacted. The provocation of including information on animal use in medicine labelling therefore opens up wider themes of knowledge, power, and positionality.

in Researching animal research
Open Access (free)
What can curiosity-driven public engagement activities contribute to dialogues about animal research?
Emma Roe
,
Sara Peres
, and
Bentley Crudgington

Despite efforts by the industry to be more open about the use of animals in research, opportunities for the public to learn about this are limited by the traditional public engagement format, which typically follows a knowledge-deficit approach. Coupled with barriers around public willingness to learn about something that stirs up complex feelings, there is a need to develop new public engagement activities that allow for open, nuanced, curiosity-driven explorations of animal research. The Mouse Exchange (MX) achieves this by allowing participants to feel in control of their experience, and to explore the hesitancy, distrust, suspicion, anxieties, and guilt that some associate with animal research. The MX approaches openness via focusing on the making and supply of animals used in research, rather than on the experiment itself. The MX has no script, but rather creates a space where participants converse and craft, becoming curious, creative, and imaginative about the topic as a research mouse, stitched together from felt fabric, forms in their hands. Through this process of crafting, an attachment can form between maker and mouse that gives participants a different stake in animal research. We argue that the MX offers a new, valuable approach to engaging publics in discussions around animal research.

in Researching animal research
Why is it challenging to care about horseshoe crabs?
Richard Gorman

The Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is unlikely to be the first animal that comes to mind when people think about laboratory animals. Yet, these enigmatic invertebrates are intricately entangled with the supply chains of modern health and medicine. Their blood is a critical component in current formulations of the Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate (LAL) test, the current regulatory standard for ensuring that vaccines, injectable medicines, and medical devices are free from contamination by endotoxins. Over 500,000 crabs are caught from the wild each year, bled, and then returned to the sea with some mortality involved. Despite the global reliance on this ancient species, the pharmaceutical utilisation of horseshoe crabs is rarely viewed through the ethical, regulatory, and conceptual frameworks that shape and manage the scientific use of animals more broadly. This chapter asks why do horseshoe crabs fall outside of current regulations and social imaginations? Bringing discussions about horseshoe crabs into conversation with the wider literature around the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, and refinement), the chapter shows that the way in which horseshoe crabs are discursively positioned has implications for ambitions towards cultivating a level of welfare for these animals, currently rendered invisible and outside of regulations and imaginations of care.

in Researching animal research
What the humanities and social sciences can contribute to laboratory animal science and welfare
Series: Inscriptions

Animal research is part of a complex web of relations made up of humans and animals, practices inside and outside the laboratory, formal laws and professional norms, and social imaginaries of the past and future of medicine. Researching Animal Research sets out an innovative approach for understanding and intervening in the social practices that constitute animal research. It proposes the idea of the animal research nexus to draw attention to the connections that make up animal research today and to understand how these elements have become entangled over time. The authors examine moves towards openness, inclusion, and interdisciplinarity in science, and open up questions that move debates beyond polarised pro- and anti-public positions. The book is written as a collaboration and conversation between historians, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, science and technology studies scholars, and engagement professionals, with commentaries from the arts, social sciences, and animal research sector. Through detailed qualitative analysis of regulation, care, expertise, and public engagement the book offers an unparalleled picture of the changing cultures, practices, and policies of UK animal research. By incorporating critical commentaries and examples of creative practices, it also seeks to animate and potentially transform the animal research nexus that it describes. As the social imaginaries and regulations around animal research continue to change in the UK and beyond, this book is a vital interdisciplinary contribution to the search for new ways to conduct and research animal research today.

Open Access (free)
Aligning care with science in the history of laboratory animal research
Robert G. W. Kirk

This chapter examines how laboratory animals, their care, and their use within experimental science were historically constituted in relation to each other during the mid-twentieth century, a period of rapid expansion in the biomedical sciences. Adopting a historical perspective allows the chapter to explore where the idea of a ‘laboratory animal’ came from, where the knowledge and practices that underpin approaches to animal care came from, and how the two shaped and were shaped by the specific epistemological needs of biomedical experiment. The chapter argues that the challenge of aligning subjective values (such as emotion) with the purportedly objective practice of experimental science was a central point of tension within this otherwise productive relationship. To do so, it reconstructs the early history of laboratory animal science and the development of a scientifically grounded logistics of animal provision for the biomedical sciences. This includes the ‘professionalisation’ of animal care, the invention of the ‘animal technician’, and the social and practical transformation of the animal house from an ad hoc space of unskilled labour to a specialised technical arena equivalent to the scientific space of the ‘laboratory’.

in Researching animal research
Why does species matter when rehoming laboratory animals?
Tess Skidmore

The rehoming of laboratory animals, while encouraged, is currently the exception rather than the rule. The majority of experimental animals are euthanised post-research. Through interviews undertaken with research facility staff, this chapter explores the role of speciesism in debates and decisions about rehoming. Researchers working with animals explained that certain species (typically dogs and cats) were considered more ‘deserving’ of rehoming, and that less emotional stress is experienced when euthanising species such as fish or frogs compared to traditional companion animals. The designating of personalities was also more common in companion animals, whereas the millions of rodents kept in facilities were often discussed as a collective. This narrative represents a practical challenge to rehoming, with facility staff reflecting that rehoming large numbers of rodents and fish was implausible due to the lack of homes available. This chapter argues for the need to consider the social, historical, and cultural dimensions embedded in decisions surrounding the choice of rehoming candidates. This involves critically attending to affections toward companion animals, and how this connection manifests in everyday decisions and actions within the laboratory space. It also includes a consideration of the ‘correct’ spatial placement of animals, and how animals are either welcomed into, or prohibited from, the human home. Studying the rehoming of laboratory animals from a social scientific perspective can provide a greater understanding of the way in which socio-cultural values both shape decision-making, and move to enact policies that support animal welfare and reflect societal concerns.

in Researching animal research
War remains and the politics of commemoration in the wake of the Asia-Pacific War
Beatrice Trefalt

In January 1955, an official mission departed Japan for New Guinea to collect remains of the war dead and to erect commemorative monuments to fallen soldiers. Just before its departure, a diplomatic contretemps arose about the English wording on the Japanese stones: the Japanese government considered them memorials to the dead, whereas the Australian government insisted that they be mere geographical markers noting the search for remains. This article examines how the divergent politics of commemoration in Japan and Australia created this dispute, demonstrating how the remains of soldiers functioned as important signifiers well beyond their material existence. In Japan, the search for remains spoke to the nature of national duty, the acknowledgement of mourning and the possibilities for atonement. In Australia, however, they stimulated visceral resentment, because the soldiers’ remains symbolised Japanese aggression and war crimes.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal