Lesley A. Sharp


On her book Animal Ethos: The Morality of Human-Animal Encounters in Experimental Lab Science

Cover Interview of May 15, 2019

A close-up

For a reader who is most interested in browsing the book’s contents, there are several points of entry. For those unfamiliar with my work, they’d probably find the Introduction (“Moral Entanglements of Experimental Animal Science”) informative (although, perhaps, dry!) reading, because it sets up key theoretical frameworks that inform the rest of the book. For an account of the curious history of television in labs, I recommend Chapter 2, “Why Do Monkeys Watch TV?” The most difficult chapter for me to write was the third one, “The Lives and Deaths of Laboratory Animals,” which stands alone as an “An Interlude” in the middle of the book. This chapter takes as its premise the inevitability of animal death (widely referred to as “sacrifice” in lab science) because the vast majority of research protocols require that research animals be killed once their involvement in a project comes to an end. Chapter 5, “The Animal Commons,” is my own effort to think outside the box by considering how the prohibition on animal sharing might be altered so as to shift both the ethical and moral premises and consequences of experimentation. My personal favorites, though, are Chapters 1 (“The Sentimental Structures of Laboratory Life”) and 4 (“Science and Salvation”), because it’s here that I wrestle with the interspecies complexities of intimacy, affect, and emotion. Chapter 4 also allowed me to address mourning and memorial practices; those familiar with my previous research know of my longstanding interest in end-of-life issues and mortuary practices.