Animal abuse, biotechnology and species justice

AuthorRagnhild Sollund,David Rodríguez Goyes
Publication Date01 August 2018
Date01 August 2018
Theoretical Criminology
2018, Vol. 22(3) 363 –383
© The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1362480618787179
Animal abuse, biotechnology
and species justice
David Rodríguez Goyes
Universidad Antonio Narino, Colombia
Ragnhild Sollund
University of Oslo, Norway
Generally, in the modern, western world, conceptualizations of the natural environment
are associated with what nature can offer us—an anthropocentric perspective whereby
humans treat nature and all its biotic components as ‘natural resources’. When nature and
the beings within it are regarded purely in utilitarian terms, humans lose sight of the fact
that ecosystems and nonhuman animals have intrinsic value. Most biotechnological use
of nonhuman animals is informed by an instrumental view of nature. In this article, we
endeavour to broaden the field of animal abuse studies by including in it the exploration
of biotechnological abuse of animals. We analyse the issue by discussing it in relation
to differing philosophical starting points and, in particular, the rights and justice theory
developed within green criminology.
Animal abuse, biopiracy, biotechnology, ecophilosophy, green criminology, wildlife
There seem to be few, if any, moral or ethical limitations to what humans do to nonhu-
man animals (e.g. Beirne, 1999, 2009; Nurse, 2015; Sollund, 2008, 2013a, 2013b).
Corresponding author:
David Rodriguez Goyes, Faculty of Law, Universidad Antonio Narino, Cl. 58a Bis #37–94, Bogota, 111321,
787179TCR0010.1177/1362480618787179Theoretical CriminologyGoyes and Sollund
364 Theoretical Criminology 22(3)
For example, nonhuman animals are killed for ‘fun’ and as ‘sport’ in hunting (e.g.
Lawson, 2017; Sollund, 2017a), and they are exploited in various forms of entertain-
ment, such as in races and fights (e.g. Lawson, 2017; Young, 2017), circuses and zoos
(e.g. Berger, 2009: 36). On a large scale, humans breed and kill nonhuman animals for
food production in harmful and cruel ways (e.g. Adams, 1996; Cudworth, 2017;
Wyatt, 2014) and subject them to painful experiments (e.g. Menache, 2017; Regan,
2012; Sollund, 2008). In this article, we address the ways in which humans, via bio-
technology, use and abuse freeborn nonhuman animals by subjecting them to pro-
cesses aimed at developing medicines and other products for human benefit. Such
processes reflect a utilitarian view of nonhuman animals (Singer, 1995) from which a
‘welfarist’ position is derived (e.g. Svärd, 2008)—and in contrast to a perspective that
considers nonhuman animals as beings possessing their own right(s) (Francione,
2009, 2014; Regan, 1986; cf. Pellow, 2013). These perspectives or stances, which
may be positioned along a continuum regarding the extent to which nonhuman ani-
mals should have rights, may be viewed in relation to (other) philosophical directions
that will be treated in more detail in this article. Our goals, then, are as follows: (1) to
position biotechnological animal abuse in the field of animal abuse studies; (2) to
show the complexity of developing studies of biotechnological use of nonhuman ani-
mals; and (3) to explore the moral and ethical implications of biotechnological use of
nonhuman animals.
We begin by placing the study within the field of green criminology, including animal
abuse studies and so-called ‘wildlife trafficking’. This allows us to connect animal
exploitation for traditional (e.g. Ngoc and Wyatt, 2013; Van Uhm, 2016) and western
medicine (Regan, 2007, 2012; Sollund, 2008) to the more ‘modern’ animal exploitation
within biotechnological research for medical purposes. We then provide an overview of
the concept of biotechnology and an introduction to the field of bioprospecting, more
generally. These concepts are illuminated through an examination of the exploitation of
the ‘poison dart frog’, in which we draw on our own empirical research from Colombia.
We then turn to the philosophical debate surrounding the use of animals in biotechnol-
ogy. We argue that whereas traditional medicine is condemned for the harms it causes to
animals, biotechnology escapes those deserved criticisms due to the legitimacy conferred
by the label of modern western science. We conclude that most current uses of animals
by biotechnology are a prolongation of the harmful logic behind the abuse of animals for
development of traditional medicine.
A note about language
Before proceeding, a note about language and its impact is in order, because the way we
talk about things shapes the way we see them. ‘Wildlife’ is an anthropocentric term,
which conceptualizes nonhuman animals as a group, rather than as individuals. In this
terminology, nonhuman freeborn animals are often referred to as ‘specimens’, rather
than as individuals. The concept also usually includes both plants and nonhuman ani-
mals. For example, TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, a leading inter-
national nongovernmental organization, defines ‘wildlife trade’ as:

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