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Ethical Considerations Relevant to Animal Welfare
Select two of the attached articles that most interest you. Answer the ethical question at the end of
each article. Defend your answer by examining the following concerns with regard to animal welfare:
Respect, Fairness, Harms and Benefits and Intrinsic value. Your responses should be roughly 300 words.
1. Respect
• Do animals deserve respect? If so, what type of respect do they deserve?
• Are there certain types of changes or modifications that we should not make to animals?
2. Fairness
• Should companies or individuals be allowed to patent modifications to life forms and limit
the ability of others to use them (by charging fees or requiring permission)?
• Do certain species have greater rights than others?
3. Harms and Benefits
• Should human benefits always outweigh animal harms?
• Is there a less harmful alternative?
• What human groups may be harmed or benefitted?
4. Intrinsic Value
• Do animals have value in their own right, or are they valuable only as they are useful to human
• What should our responsibilities be toward animals?
Alba’s Case
Image courtesy of:
Since the early 1990s, scientists have been creating bacteria, roundworms, mice, and other animals that
glow green by inserting a jellyfish gene into their genomes. The modification helps researchers study cell
processes, including the movement of certain proteins, because glowing proteins can be visualized
whereas normal proteins cannot. In 2008, three U.S. scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in
Chemistry for developing the jellyfish green fluorescent protein (GFP). GFP has become “one of the most
important tools used in contemporary bioscience,” according to the Nobel Prize Web site
( This tool has allowed researchers “to watch processes that were previously
invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread.”
Researchers have also created more than 100 glowing albino rabbits. GFP is inserted into a rabbit
zygote, and the rabbit grows with the jellyfish gene in each of its cells. The cells glow under blue light.
An artist found out about the GFP research and asked to have a rabbit created for him to use in his art
show. Alba, the rabbit shown here, is an albino rabbit that glows green under blue light. The research
group that created her did not release her to the artist, but newspaper reports indicate that she was
specifically genetically engineered for him.
The risks of genetic engineering include disturbing the appropriate expression of the animal’s genome.
Researchers haven’t discovered any problems yet with GFP-altered animals. There is also the possibility
that the gene could enter the wild population if the lab animals with it leave the lab and breed with wild
So far, there is no alternative to genetic modification for creating glowing cells.
Was it ethically acceptable to make a glowing rabbit for an art show? Why or why not?
Image courtesy of
How similar are you to a mouse? It turns out that an astonishing 99 percent of mouse genes have equivalent or
homologous genes in humans. This genetic kinship means that mice can serve as very useful models in studying
many human diseases. Mice have been used as models for research on cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and a
whole host of other disorders. Medical researchers choose animal models when they believe it would be unsafe,
unethical, or premature to conduct the research using humans. To ensure that animals used in research are
treated humanely, research funded by the National Institutes of Health must adhere to the Guide to the Care and
Use of Laboratory Animals. This manual covers in great detail how to house, feed, care for, and use research
Researchers create transgenic mice by transferring foreign DNA into mouse cells to produce specific traits. Mice
that have successfully incorporated the gene and developed the disease of interest can then be used to study the
course of the disease and to look for potential treatments. For example, if there were a gene known to cause lethal
brain tumors in humans, it could be transferred into mice to make them grow brain tumors. The way the tumor
grows and ways to treat it could be studied with the hope that the findings could eventually be applied to humans.
Hundreds of thousands of transgenic mice are being used in research. Besides the risks of genetic engineering,
discussed in other cases here (for example, mad-cow-disease cows, spider-silk goats, and immunoglobulin cows),
these mice will suffer symptoms of the disease under investigation. The mice are killed at the end of the research,
or earlier if they appear to be suffering too much.
There are as yet no equivalent alternatives for doing this type of research. Animals with simpler nervous systems,
such as fruit flies and nematode worms, are often used as models. Their genes do not have the same high degree
of similarity to humans’ as mouse genes do, so they may not be as effective as model systems for studying disease.
Is it ethically acceptable to use mice as human-disease models? Why or why not?
Dyed Feathers
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People dye bird feathers for different reasons, such as to observe the movement of wild birds or to tell
one hatchling group from another. They also do it for human enjoyment.
To color the whole chick, including the feathers, people dye the embryo as it develops. A small hole is
drilled into the shell, the tip of a needle on a syringe filled with dye is inserted just through the shell
membrane, and the dye is injected. Harmless vegetable dyes like food coloring sold in stores can be
used. The hole is covered with wax, and the egg is returned to incubation. If the shell is broken or the
needle penetrates the embryo, the embryo dies. However, if the embryo survives the injection process,
the bird’s health and growth appear not to be affected by this treatment. As the chicks grow, they molt,
or shed, their feathers, and in adulthood, the birds have normal-colored feathers. The number of
people who modify birds like this is unknown, as is the number of birds that have been dyed.
An alternative to creating colored feathers through dying them is to paint them, but as of 2009, injecting
dye into the egg is the only way to color the entire bird.
Is it ethically acceptable to dye birds for human enjoyment? Why or why not?
Ear Mice
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The scarcity of organs for tissue transplantation has created a serious medical problem. However, the
ability of scientists to grow an ear on the back of a mouse may lead to viable alternatives to organ
donation as a source of organs and other body parts (such as corneas) for transplantation.
In this instance, scientists molded sterile, biodegradable mesh into the shape of a human ear and placed
cartilage from a cow knee onto the mesh. The mesh was then implanted into the back of the mouse. The
mouse provided energy and nutrients needed for cartilage to grow over the scaffolding through extra
blood vessels grown by the mouse. The strain of mouse used in this experiment was modified to have
little or no immune system and, therefore, the mouse did not reject the foreign material. The goal of the
research was to determine whether this approach would be a viable method for growing organs, such as
human livers, for transplantation in larger animals, such as pigs. Scientists used to think that they could
grow only simple human tissues in culture in the laboratory, but this research shows that growing more
complex structures is possible.
The risks to the mouse include the surgery to implant the scaffolding and living with an ear on its back.
How many people this might benefit and how soon are not known, nor is the ultimate number of mice
to be used in this research.
There are as yet no equivalent alternatives for doing this type of research. To date, organs (including
skin) and body parts can only be obtained from living human donors and cadavers.
Is it ethically acceptable to use mice to research the growing of body parts? Why or why not?
Giant Panda Breeding
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The giant panda is an endangered animal, mainly because of the loss of habitat from human incursion into its
territory. Only about 1,600 of them are living in the wild, and about 170 are in captivity. The reproductive rate of
pandas is low, even in the wild, because female pandas are only fertile two days each month and they are very
picky about their mates, and male pandas have low sexual desire. When in captivity, the stress of contact with
humans adds to their low ability to reproduce.
To save the species from extinction, starting about 50 years ago, zoos and conservatories have been using artificial
insemination for females that do not mate or that mate unsuccessfully. Semen collected from a male panda is
injected into a female while she’s anesthetized. About 100 pandas have been successfully born in captivity using
this approach.
Artificial insemination introduces a slight risk of infection to the mother panda as well as some risks associated
with undergoing anesthesia. The male panda must also be put to sleep for a short time so that his semen can be
collected. Pandas born in captivity show few natural survival instincts and have not been successfully introduced
back into the wild. When panda cubs are born, they are the size of a stick of butter and have a high mortality rate.
Once a panda cub is 100 days old, it is considered to be out of immediate danger.
There are currently no alternatives to natural panda breeding other than artificial insemination.
Is it ethically acceptable to artificially assist giant panda breeding? Why or why not?
Immunoglobulin Cows
The immune system makes antibodies in response to viruses, bacteria, fungi, allergens, cancer cells, and
other foreign matter. Some people are not able to make enough or any of their own antibodies, so they
are more likely to get infections and have difficulty recovering from illness. Exactly how many people
suffer from deficiencies of disease-fighting antibodies, or immunoglobulins, is unknown, but the number
is significant— in part because many different conditions lead to immune deficiency.
Immunoglobulins can only be obtained from human donor blood. Human donor immunoglobulins are
expensive because they can’t be mass-produced. Using current human-based technologies, one year of
IVIG (intravenous immune globulin) treatment can cost $50,000. IVIG is approved by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) to treat many different conditions such as leukemia and AIDS. If there were a
larger supply of immunoglobulins, the cost of treatment would probably be significantly reduced.
In one experimental approach to treating immunoglobulin deficiency, a cow was genetically engineered
with human DNA to produce milk and blood containing human immunoglobulins and then cloned. There
are now four such cows, and cloning them will allow the genetically engineered trait to be passed on to
their off spring. The number of cows that may eventually be used for this purpose is unknown.
Cloning occurs when a somatic cell is fused to an egg cell whose nucleus has been removed. The embryo
is then grown in a surrogate animal mother. Cloning is not a perfect science and often produces animals
with life-threatening deformities and conditions. Because this approach is relatively new, the health of
cloned cows over the long run is still unknown. Some researchers have reported compromised immune
systems, accelerated aging, and premature death in cloned animals.
Animals that have had other species’ DNA inserted into their cells are called “transgenic.” Two risks of
genetic engineering include possibly disrupting the functioning of certain genes of the cow and the
possibility that the introduced gene could enter the wild population from unregulated breeding.
Human donor blood is still the only available source of immunoglobulins.
Is it ethically acceptable to genetically engineer cows to produce immunoglobulins that will be used to
treat human diseases such as leukemia? Why or why not
Mad-Cow-Disease Cows
Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a fatal, neurodegenerative
disease of cattle that results in destruction of the brain and spinal cord. Mad cow disease was first
identified in Great Britain in 1986, when a large herd of cattle was found to be affected.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported only two cases of mad cow disease in the 96
million U.S. cows. In June 2004, USDA began a BSE surveillance program and is testing the 446,000 U.S.
cattle considered at highest risk of infection. The strict regulations for controlling mad cow disease
include killing infected animals to make sure they do not get into the animal or human food supply. If a
few cows within a herd are infected, the entire herd must be destroyed.
The disease in cattle is similar to a neurodegenerative condition in humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
(CJD). Both diseases are caused by the presence of abnormally folded proteins called prions. Classical
CJD is generally considered a disease of people over age 63 that develops slowly over a long period of
time and is caused by contact with infected human tissue. However, a new form of CJD has been found
in young people (ages 17 to 24) that progresses rapidly and causes death within 13 months of the first
symptoms. This form appears to come from eating beef from cattle that have BSE. By October 2008, 164
deaths worldwide had been attributed to CJD contracted from infected beef.
Researchers are currently working to genetically modify cows to make them resistant to mad cow
disease. If this approach proves to be effective, entire cattle populations may be made resistant to the
disease. The risks of genetic engineering include the possibility that the appropriate expression of the
animals’ own genes is altered and that the modified gene enters the general population through
unregulated breeding. Although the safety of eating genetically modified organisms is debated, there
are no established adverse health consequences.
Since cattle can contract BSE by consuming feed made from infected animals, an alternative approach to
genetic modification is to feed cattle only grains or grass, not meat byproducts. Another alternative is to
detect the disease early. Research is under way to create a rapid way to screen for early signs of
infection by detecting disease-causing prions in blood. Today, the only way to prevent the spread of BSE
is to slaughter animals suspected of being exposed to it. Is it ethically acceptable to genetically
engineer cows to be resistant to mad cow disease? Why or why not?
Malaria Mosquitoes
Malaria is a parasite-caused disease that produces fever, headache, chills, and vomiting in humans. If
severe enough, it can lead to death. Certain species of mosquito carry and transmit the malaria
parasites. Malaria affects 300 to 500 million people worldwide every year. It takes a huge toll on the
health and economies of those people and their countries. More than 1 million people, mostly infants,
die every year from malaria. There are drugs to treat it, but parasite resistance to the drugs is increasing
as funding for medications and mosquito eradication efforts in the most-affected countries is
If mosquitoes could be genetically modified so that they can’t carry or transmit malaria, they would not
be able to infect humans with the disease. Scientists are considering releasing genetically modified
mosquitoes into the wild to eliminate native malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The modified mosquitoes
would compete with the disease carrying ones, and the altered mosquitoes would pass on to their
offspring the trait that keeps them from transmitting the disease. In addition to the risks of genetic
engineering discussed in previous cases, there’s the unknown risk of releasing genetically engineered
mosquitoes into the wild.
Spraying insecticides and reducing mosquito breeding sites (such as pools of stagnant water) are two
methods for managing mosquito populations, but reducing their number is a continual battle. Other
methods of malaria prevention include sleeping under nets, applying insect repellent, and covering up
with clothing.
Taking antimalarial medication and following prevention methods may be easy for tourists, but
hundreds of millions of people can’t afford these protections, and millions suffer and die each year. Nets
to cover sleeping quarters cost around $10 each, but this is expensive in a society where people may live
on less than $1 per day. Several organizations are raising funds to provide millions of nets to those in
Is it ethically acceptable to genetically engineer mosquitoes to be resistant to malaria parasites? Why
or why not?
Purebred Dogs
Labra-doodles: bred for those allergic to pet hair
Humans have genetically modified dogs for thousands of years by breeding them to have traits humans
find desirable—for hunting, herding, guarding, sport, and companionship, among other reasons. For
example, the sheep dog is bred for herding and has the characteristics that are good for that job. There
are over 45 million purebred dogs in the United States and millions of dog owners.
To create a new breed, humans breed dogs with the desired traits. Offspring with some of the desired
traits are bred with each other until dogs with all the desired traits are achieved. These dogs are then
bred over several generations to ensure that the desired traits are inherited and that no undesirable
traits appear or reappear. These are called purebred dogs, and they are highly valued by many people.
These are the dogs that compete in kennel club dog shows.
Because of inbreeding (breeding within a family of a certain type of dog), some purebred dogs have
inherited problems that are passed on through generations. For example, many breeds of dog,
especially the medium to large ones, have problems with hip dysplasia, a disease that can cause painful
arthritis and crippling lameness. Sometimes puppies that have been overly inbred (bred with close
relatives) are born dead or with such grave problems that they are not able to survive.
An alternative to breeding purebred dogs is to accept more cross-breeding and “mutts” as pets.
Is it ethically acceptable to breed purebred dogs? Why or why not?
Sheared Wooly Sheep
The sheep population in the United States is nearly 7 million. Farmers raise sheep for milk, meat, and
wool. Animal farming has environmental consequences; the land is being used for animal production
instead of other purposes or instead of remaining wild, and the sheep produce a lot of waste. On the
other hand, sheep are a renewable resource that can be raised in a sustainable manner and produce
natural fiber that can substitute for synthetic fibers. The multimilli …
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