Davis & Balfour (1992) appears to be a long awaited extended brief against vestiges of the ideal that individual investigators are neutral entities, divorced from any relation with their object of study. We must give up the strategy of understanding ourselves through the study of nonhuman animals as models of us. We now understand that animals are individuals embedded in interspecies social structures that include the investigator. I believe that adopting this ideal will result in a more veridical and useful understanding of animals and human-animal relations. Its adoption will also diminish the suffering and waste of lives of laboratory animals.
2. At the turn of the century the emerging field of psychology attempted to define itself as a natural science primarily through the construction of the laboratory as the site of research and the laboratory animal as the object of research. It is important to understand that both lab and lab animal are constructs and that both developed in the service of establishing the neutrality and objectivity of the investigator, a desideratum defined by a then regnant philosophy of science: logical positivism.
3. Through selective breeding of albino Norway rats, psychologists developed a more tractable object of study which they could insert into an increasingly mechanized and instrumentalized lab. The metaphor of the lab and the lab animal embodied the ideals of detached, impartial observer and of experimental control. In the new field of experimental laboratory psychology, animal "subjects" were "organisms" or "preparations" or "models" of general behavioral and, later, physiological processes. In this construction, individual and even species-specific behavior (not to mention any form of scientist-animal bond or relation) were denied. In the context of our current understanding of the capabilities of nonhuman animals and the reexamination of the ethics of our use of them, these constructions are a profound embarrassment. Psychology's discovery of the "inevitable bond" is belated, owing to the continuing power of these constructions to conceal what everyone outside the laboratory already knows: Human and nonhuman animals form stable, affectively based relations. We can only understand them within and through those social structures.
4. Prospectively, we must give up the strategy of understanding ourselves through the study of nonhuman animals as models of us. The animal model strategy assumes that animals are like test tubes and can be "related" to as containers or carriers of germs. We now understand that the more appropriate regulative ideal is that animals are individuals embedded in interspecies social structures that include the investigator. I believe that adopting this ideal will result in a more veridical and useful understanding of animals and human-animal relations. In any case, as it is more burdensome ethically to the investigator, its adoption will diminish the suffering and waste of lives of laboratory animals.
Davis, H. (1993) Precis of "The Inevitable Bond" (Davis & Balfour 1992) PSYCOLOQUY 4(12) human-animal-bond.1.davis
Davis, H. & Balfour, D. (1992) (eds) The Inevitable Bond. Cambridge University Press