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Negotiating the necessity of biomedical animal use through relations with vulnerability

McGlacken, Renelle

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Renelle McGlacken


In the UK, claims are often made that public support for animal research is stronger when such use is categorised as for medical purposes. Drawing on a qualitative analysis of writing from the Mass Observation Project, a national writing project documenting everyday life in Britain, this paper suggests that the necessity of using animals for medical research is not a given but understood relationally through interactions with inherent vulnerability. This paper stresses the ubiquity of ambivalence towards uses of animals for medical research, complicating what is meant by claims that such use is ‘acceptable’, and suggests that science-society dialogues on animal research should accommodate different modes of thinking about health. In demonstrating how understandings of health are bound up with ethical obligations to care for both human and non-human others, this paper reinforces the importance of interspecies relations in health and illness and in the socio-ethical dimensions of biomedicine.


McGlacken, R. (2024). Negotiating the necessity of biomedical animal use through relations with vulnerability. BioSocieties, 19(1), 130-148.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 28, 2022
Online Publication Date Jan 7, 2023
Publication Date Mar 1, 2024
Deposit Date Nov 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 8, 2024
Journal BioSocieties
Print ISSN 1745-8552
Electronic ISSN 1745-8560
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 130-148
Keywords Vulnerability; animal research; Mass Observation Project; ethics; care; health
Public URL
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Additional Information Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit


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