Bringing in the controversy: re-politicizing the de-politicized strategy of ethics committees

L.M. Poort, T. Holmberg, I. Ideland

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleProfessional


Human/animal relations are potentially controversial and biotechnologically produced animals and animal-like creatures – bio-objects such as transgenics, clones, cybrids and other hybrids – have often created lively political debate since they challenge established social and moral norms. Ethical issues regarding the human/animal relations in biotechnological developments have at times been widely debated in many European countries and beyond. However, the general trend is a move away from parliamentary and public debate towards institutionalized ethics and technified expert panels. We explore by using the conceptual lens of bio-objectification what effects such a move can be said to have. In the bio-objectification process, unstable bio-object becomes stabilized and receives a single “bio-identity” by closing the debate. However, we argue that there are other possible routes bio-objectification processes can take, routes that allow for more open-ended cases. By comparing our observations and analyses of deliberations in three different European countries we will explore how the bio-objectification process works in the context of animal ethics committees. From this comparison we found an interesting common feature: When animal biotechnology is discussed in the ethics committees, technical and pragmatic matters are often foregrounded. We noticed that there is a common silence around ethics and a striking consensus culture. The present paper, seeks to understand how the bio-objectification process works so as to silence complexity through consensus as well as to discuss how the ethical issues involved in animal biotechnology could become re-politicized, and thereby made more pluralistic, through an “ethos of controversies”.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLife Sciences, Society and Policy
Issue number11
Early online date11 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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