Caring and Killing: Care Labor and Feminist Ethics in the Animal Research Lab Restricted; Files Only

Warren, Caroline (Spring 2021)

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Over the past decade, a growing body of feminist science and technology studies scholarship has begun to theorize a new form of “non-anthropocentric” care ethics for the animal research lab. Some have called this an "ethic of response-ability" (e.g. Martin, Myers, Viseu, 2015). While they acknowledge the "non-innocence" of care, proponents of response-ability have tended to emphasize the way care can function to disrupt the violent instrumental human-animal relations that characterize research using animals. This focus has come at the expense of robust accounts of how care also functions to shore up the hierarchical boundaries between humans and animals and allow scientific knowledge production to proceed smoothly and efficiently. In Chapters 1 and 2, I argue that theorizing a ethic of  response-ability requires that we first think of “care” as a form of labor or emotion work performed by animal care staff to ensure that lab workers and animals act in ways that do not impede the speed or productivity of biomedical research. I support my claims with qualitative interview and observation data gathered during 27 interviews and nearly 40 hours of observation of laboratory veterinary and husbandry staff who cared for lab animals ranging from rodents to non-human primates. Chapter 3 is a critique of Donna Haraway’s formulation of an ethic of response-ability for the animal lab, which she calls sharing suffering. Haraway’s  book When Species Meet is arguably the foundational text for scholarship seeking to theorize an ethic of response-ability for multispecies relationships, and so the limitations of her work have had a profound impact on theorizations of response-ability that have come after her. I argue that Haraway’s attempt theorize response-ability as a feminist ethic for instrumental human-animal relations is weakened by her failure to engage sufficiently with the field of feminist care ethics and her inattention to some of the ethical implications of Karen Barad’s concept agential realism, which Haraway takes as the starting point for her ethical project.

Table of Contents




Chapter 1

“Good Care Equals Good Science:” The Labor of Caring for Animals,

Data and the Greater Good


Chapter 2

The Costs of Caring: Emotion Work and Compassion Fatigue in the Lab


Chapter 3

Response-ability and the Problems with “Sharing Suffering”








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