Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Animal research, ethical boundary‐work, and the geographies of veterinary expertise

Anderson, Alistair; Hobson‐West, Pru



The veterinary profession has been relatively understudied in social science, though recent work has highlighted the geographic dimensions of veterinary expertise. This paper draws on in‐depth qualitative interviews with Named Veterinary Surgeons (NVSs) working in UK animal research to demonstrate how and why they distinguish between ethical aspects of veterinary work in the spaces of the laboratory and general clinical practice. The paper mobilises the sociological concept of ethical boundary‐work to help understand how animal research – often assumed to represent a contentious ethical space – is constructed positively as a space for veterinary work. Findings suggest first, that NVSs differentiate between laboratory veterinary‐work and clinical work based on the scale at which veterinary expertise functions in the provision of healthcare to animals. Second, NVSs highlight a geography of veterinary authority in which veterinary expertise is felt to be more successfully applied in the laboratory compared with the clinic, where professional expertise competes with other sources of information and clients' finances and behaviours. Third, NVSs articulate a geography of consistency in which veterinary care in the laboratory is claimed to be more consistent between animals, as opposed to in the clinic, where animal experience may be influenced by individual owner characteristics. Overall, we show how through engaging in this kind of ethical boundary‐work NVSs are not only presenting a form of scientific practice as ‘ethical’, they are also constructing a professional topology of veterinary practice and expertise. Finally, the paper argues for greater attentiveness to veterinary geographies beyond the more routine spaces of veterinary practice.


Anderson, A., & Hobson‐West, P. (2022). Animal research, ethical boundary‐work, and the geographies of veterinary expertise. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 18, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 16, 2022
Publication Date Dec 7, 2022
Deposit Date Feb 7, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 7, 2023
Journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Print ISSN 0020-2754
Electronic ISSN 1475-5661
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Earth-Surface Processes; Geography, Planning and Development
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 2021-07-26; Accepted: 2022-11-18; Published: 2022-12-16


Animal research, ethical boundary‐work, and the geographies of veterinary expertise (410 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations