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Animals in Experimental Reports: The Rhetoric of Science

In: Society & Animals
Authors: Lynda Birke1 and Jane Smith2
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  • 1 CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF WOMEN AND GENDER, UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK, UNITED KINGDOM
  • | 2 UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM
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Abstract

In this paper, we analyze the ways in which the use of animals is described in the "Methods" sections of scientific papers. We focus particularly on aspects of the language of scientific narrative and what it conveys to the reader about the animals. Scientific writing, for example, tends to omit details of how the animals are cared for. Perhaps more importantly, it is constructed in ways that tend to minimize what is happening to the animal; thus, animal death is obscured by euphemisms, omission, or circumlocutions. What is done to animals is, moreover, often subordinate in the text to the details of experimental procedures and apparatus. We consider how such writing supports a particular kind of image of the "animal" in science, and also creates an impression that what happens to animals is somehow devoid of human agency. This impression, we argue, contributes to the way science is perceived by a wider public.

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