Negotiating Moral Value: A Story of Danish Research Monkeys and Their Humans

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In 2004, twelve capuchin monkeys were moved from the labs of the Danish psychiatric hospital of Sankt Hans to a small private-owned zoo in another part of Denmark in order to be rehabilitated. These monkeys were the last nonhuman primates to be used as research animals in Danish biomedical laboratories. The normal procedure would be to kill research animals after the termination of an experiment; in this case, however, a decision was reached to close down the lab. The moral landscape had changed, and it was no longer considered acceptable to use nonhuman primates in Danish biomedicine. From being considered a biological resource serving as a model of man, the monkeys had become moral subjects with a claim to a life suiting their natural needs. Simultaneously, the monkeys became instrumental in creating moral legitimacy for the actors involved in their rescue. What we see is an instance of pathfinding in a changing moral landscape where actors negotiate nonhuman primate nature as they create new moral positions for themselves.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience, Technology & Human Values
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)368-388
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

ID: 143159603