ethics in science and technology
The use of animals in research has been a contentious ethical issue for a very long time. The UK is one of the foremost nations in pressing for improvements in animal welfare and the care of animals that are used in research. For many, such use is a necessary step in the validation and safety testing of new medical drugs and treatments, as a check before using them in human clinical trials. For some, however, it is absolutely wrong to treat our fellow creatures in this way. It is important to recognise that not all animal research is for human medicine. Some is directed to addressing animal diseases and animal behaviour, and animal nutrition and welfare in agricultural production, as well as in veterinary medicine.
Animals in Science Committee
Edinethics' Managing Director Donald Bruce is a member of the UK Government's Animals in Science Committee ASC. ASC is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office, which advises the Home Secretary on matters of animal research in the UK, and via the cross-departmental Policy Unit the statutory animals inspectorate (ASRU) and other relevant bodies. Amongst other duties, it is also called upon to give its ethical opinion on applications for animal research projects in some fields which are considered of special concern or sensitivity, and promotes the sharing of good practice among the Animal Welfare and Ethics Review Bodies (AWERBs) of the establishments and organisations engaged in animal research. Dr Bruce has been a lay member of the AWERB for the Roslin Institute and been in an advisory capacity to the Scotish Agricultural College (now Scotland's Rural University College.
Ethics and Public Engagement on Cattle Breeding and Genomics in the EC BovReg Project
Edinethics Ltd is part of the European Commision BovReg project on cattle breeding (www.bovreg.eu), funded within the Horizon 2020 research programme. Edinethics' our role is in ethical issues and particularly in constructing and developing a Democs card game on Cattle Breeding: what should we do next?, jointly with the Dr Ann Bruce of the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies department of the University of Edinburgh, to explore such questions with small groups of publics indifferent European countries.
The revolution in genetics has brought the ability to make substantialnew developments in breeding livestock. Using advanced genomics many more traits can potentially be taken into account in selective breeding programmes for dairy and beef cattle, including specific disease resistance, methane emissions, feed efficiency, and robustness to environmental stresses. As breeders and farmers can now select for a much wider rage of traits than classical production factors like milk yield or muscle growth, what should thepriorities now be? The range of information and interrelated ethical and social issues is large and complex, involving genomics, production systems, animal health and welfare, climate change, land use, biodiversity, societal and cultural aspects and world views. In which directions should we use this new knowledge, in a world where climate change, antimicrobial resistance, biodiversity and even meat consumption itself have become major factors in debate? Such decisions tend to be made with only the major stakeholders round the table. Publics may have different viewpoints and insights about the foods being produced on theirbehalf, but are seldom involved. Aware of this, the BovReg has a work package dedicated to ethical and societal issues, and stakeholder and public engagement.