A Feeling for the Animal: On Becoming an Experimentalist

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Research Coordinator, Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University, Box 634, 751 26 Uppsala, Sweden;, Email: tora.holmberg@gender.uu.se

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Abstract

This article deals with questions that arose during a 2-week university course in nonhuman animal laboratory science. Doctoral students and researchers take the course to acquire the knowledge necessary for future independent work with nonhuman animal experimentation. During the course, participants learn to handle animals in the laboratory, both in theory and in practice, and to do so in a humane way with a feeling for the animals. The paper analyzes how this knowledge, in other tacit contexts, is constructed and learned and focuses on two main aspects of handling rodents in the laboratory: habituation and killing. The course's focus on good handling works as a means of doing good research, as a strategy of including animal welfare as a legitimate agenda, while keeping intact traditional scientific norms—such as standardization. In this case, standardization has a wider scope than commonly assumed: Not only are the animals standardized but also the experimentalists who become standardized through courses and curricula. However, this process of standardization is not complete; thus, a feeling for the animal implies, as the case study shows, individual animal and human-animal interaction.

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