Risk, human health, and the oppression of nonhuman animals: the development of transgenic nonhuman animals for human use

Kay Peggs

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In May 2009, the journal Nature published an article by Erika Sasaki et al. outlining a research development in biomedical science that, the authors argue, will provide new possibilities for using nonhuman primates in experiments for human health benefits. The authors claim that their research offers the potential for the reproduction of transgenic marmosets who, because of their “close genetic relations with humans” (523), might be extremely useful in advances designed to reduce the risks from a range of human health hazards. By conducting a critical analysis of the article, I will explore moral questions connected with experiments on nonhuman animals, in order to reflect upon assumptions central to claims about the progress that such nonhuman animal experiments are said to represent. My discussion is rooted in sociological theorizing about risk because, as Sasaki and her colleagues’ work demonstrates, biogenetics is being used to amplify risks to nonhuman animal health for the purpose of reducing risks to human health. Sociological theory allows us to examine assumptions about distinctions between humans and nonhuman animals, and among nonhuman animals, that intensify the commodification of nonhuman animals. Critical discourse analysis allows us to unveil assumptions made by Sasaki et al. that serve a logic of scientific advancement driven by human preoccupation with human benefits at the expense of nonhuman animals, which, I conclude, conflicts with human moral progress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-69
Number of pages21
JournalHumanimalia: A Journal of Human/ Animal Interface Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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