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Anim Welf. 1999;8(4):381-90.

Tower of Babel: variation in ethical approaches, concepts of welfare and attitudes to genetic manipulation.

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Institute of Ecology and Resource Management, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK.


Attitudes to animal biotechnology are diverse, partly because people have different viewpoints and often do not recognize or acknowledge this to be so. First, people adopt different ethical approaches. If an opponent of genetic manipulation says 'I don't like the idea of altering animals' biology' and a proponent replies '...but it is useful', they are failing to communicate, because one is asking whether the action is right or wrong, whereas the other emphasizes the consequences. Another approach focuses on the person carrying out the action. Many people have hybrid views combining elements of these different approaches. Second, people's concepts of welfare vary, emphasizing animal minds, bodies or natures--or a combination of these. A proponent who argues that a particular genetic change will not cause suffering is unlikely to reassure an opponent who puts more emphasis on naturalness than on feelings or health. An improved dialogue, in which people attempt to understand one another's viewpoints, may enable common principles to be established and practical measures to be taken that enable more cooperation in attempts to improve both human and animal welfare.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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