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Sociology. 2012 Aug;46(4):649-663.

Ethical boundary-work in the animal research laboratory.

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University of Nottingham, UK.


The use of animals in scientific experiments continues to attract significant controversy, particularly in the UK. This article draws on in-depth interviews with senior laboratory scientists who use animals in their research. A key claim is that animal research is necessary for medical advance. However, this promissory discourse relies on the construction of three boundaries. The first is between humans and non-human animals. The second is between the positive and less positive impacts of Home Office regulation. The third is between the use of animals in medicine versus other domains such as farming. The article analyses these discourses and evaluates the applicability of 'ethical boundary-work' (Wainwright et al., 2006a). I conclude that the concept is a potentially useful device for foregrounding ethics but argue that it carries several dangers for sociologists interested in claim-making in areas of controversy.


animals; boundary-work; ethics; laboratory; science

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