SAP sponsored event: Genome Editing and Animal Welfare

SAP sponsored event: Genome Editing and Animal Welfare

Wolfson College, Oxford
November 19, 2019 9:00 am — 5:00 pm

Contact Katrien Devolder for more information.


The Oxford Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics, in conjunction with Wolfson College and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, is organizing a one day workshop on the topic of Genome Editing and Animal Welfare.  Speakers and topics will include:

  • Bernice Bovenkerk: “Animal (dis)enhancement: lessons from the human enhancement debate”
  • Sarah Chan: “Genome editing and the value of species”
  • Clare Palmer: “Using gene drive to eliminate invasive rodents on islands — ethics and the lives of animals”
  • Peter Sandoe: “Gene editing of cattle for hornlessness  — Ethical pros and cons”
  • Tatjana Visak: “A utilitarian account of animal rights”

Background: Recently developed genome editing technologies (in particular the CRISPR/Cas9 system) allow scientists to redesign animals in novel ways and on a scale that was previously not possible. For example, in agriculture, genome editing could potentially be used to increase meat or milk yield per animal, confer disease-resistance (e.g. pigs resistant to African swine fever), or to better adapt livestock to harsh environmental conditions (e.g. featherless chickens for hot climates) or to the conditions of industrial farming (e.g. hornless cattle, or cattle that feel less pain). In the context of biomedicine, genome editing in animals could be used to produce better models for the study of human disease, and animals that serve as ‘biological factories’, producing vaccines, pharmaceuticals or even entire organs.

This workshop will explore a number of philosophical questions raised by these developments, such as:

  • How should we weigh animal wellbeing against other considerations, e.g. respect for animals?
  • How will genome editing affect the moral status of animals and what are the implications?
  • Are there morally relevant differences between increasing animal wellbeing through environmental, bodily or mental influences?
  • Would pursuing genome editing in livestock make those who use it, or support its use,  complicit in a morally problematic livestock industry? If so, could this complicity be reduced or offset?

The event is organized by Katrien Devolder and Adam Shriver, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, and Wolfson College, and funded by a grant from the Society for Applied Philosophy