Animal Studies Bibliography

Arluke, Arnold. 1990a. Moral elevation in medical research. Advances in Medical Sociology 1: 189-204.

Accounts of situations filled with killing, like concentration camps and war, as well as other cases of victimization like rape, suggest that people are enabled to harm others by morally derogating them. Looking further at the evidence, however, one encounters many examples of the moral elevation of victims. A victim may be separated out from the rest for special treatment and is therefore recognized as having human qualities. Such moral elevation takes place in laboratory research with animals, as well, and helps to illustrate the social psychological importance of the process. Most lab animals are objectified, construed as data or equipment and eventually sacrificed, all though ritual processes. This process involves counteranthropomor-phism, “the attribution of inanimate qualities to living things” (192). The animals are transformed into scientific objects by their treatment as such in planning the experiment, their treatment as anonymous and equivalent upon arrival at the lab, the limited time most researchers spend with conscious animals, and the lab's social norms which demand treating the animals as objects. While most animals in labs are thus treated as objects, there are important exceptions in which animals are separated out and attain pet-like status. All together, these many cases suggest that lab animals have a greater meaning than simply experimental objects. Selection for pet status is valuable for an animal because it means special treatment. There are 4 types of such relationships. The enshrined pet are absent animals venerated in a lab by drawings, photos, and other animal-related paraphernalia that demonstrates the lab workers' interest in and caring for animals. Animals involved in these displays usually included both the types of animals involved in lab research and other kinds of animals (wildlife, etc.). Liberated pets are animals singled out by an individual or group and removed from the experiment. They are often kept in the lab, lavished with attention, and athropomorphized. Larger animals, like dogs, that could not live in the lab, are sometimes taken home to live with a worker. Liberating the animals is against institutional and federal regulations but is often tolerated by the researchers running the experiment. Saved pets are animals to whom a researcher becomes attached during the course of the experiment and who the researcher therefore saves from the sacrifice that the animal is expected to undergo. Fourth, martyred pets are animals researchers have grown close to but are not able to save from sacrifice. There are a number of factors that affect whether an animal will be chosen for pet status. The most significant factor is length of interaction with a human. Animals in short-term experiments are unlikely to be chosen, whereas animals worked with or observed for longer periods of time are more likely to be chosen. The longer period of time allows more bonding and more demonstration of individuality and personality on the part of the animal. The division of labor in labs affects pet relationships as well. There are 4 main types of workers in labs: principal investigators, postdoctoral fellows, research technicians, and animal care technicians. These groups have, respectively, increasing amounts of contact with living, conscious animals. Those who work with the live, awake animals daily are much more likely to choose a pet than are principal investigators. New workers of any type are likely to choose a pet. Approaching all the animals in the lab as possible pets (the approach of the outside world), these workers are often in for some pain as they experience the death of these animals, and they learn to distance themselves more in the future. Animals with unique physical characteristics, animals in pain, baby animals, and animals with pet-like personalities (e.g. docility, a dog who sits, etc.) are more likely to be chosen for pet status. It is unavoidable that some moral elevation of lab animals would occur, because complete objectification would be very hard to achieve. Moral elevation does, however, serve specific functions for workers. First, having a pet animal allows workers to behave toward an animal in a socially accepted way--as “animal lovers.” Second, having a pet helps workers deal with the stigma of their work, and they often offer it as a demonstration of their feelings toward animals. Third, technicians and caretakers may identify with the animals, since both they and the animals are tools used to advance the careers of the research leaders. Taking a pet in this context may demonstrate solidarity. Fourth, liberated pets may be a way of challenging the hierarchy--for example, an adored rodent saved from harm while every monkey in the facility is killed mocks the hierarchy of the workplace. Fifth, saved pets may be symbolic objects because they avoided the inevitable sacrifice, supporting the research community's unspoken wish that animals have a chance to escape their fate. Sixth, martyred pets and the pain they bring teach new workers the need to distance themselves. Seventh, the presence of pets makes the meaning of the laboratory animal ambiguous, to be determined by circumstance. This ambiguity allows workers to feel that their actions are acceptable. These connections between humans and the animals they work with have been seen in other work situations involving animals, creating a work community like that formed among human workers in other occupations. There are dysfunctions created by lab pets, however, including stress that workers will have trouble dealing with because of the general social disregard for grief over pet loss combined with the mixed feelings within the scientific community about having pets at all. Labs should study and deal with these emotions, as well as the phenomenon of pet-keeping, since it may result in poor science if certain animals are given more attention, special foods, and the like. Lab workers need the opportunity to discuss their feelings about their work.


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