Justifying a presumption of restraint in animal biotechnology research

Am J Bioeth. 2008 Jun;8(6):36-44. doi: 10.1080/15265160802248138.


Articulating the public's widespread unease about animal biotechnology has not been easy, and the first attempts have not been able to provide an effective tool for navigating the moral permissibility of this research. Because these moral intuitions have been difficult to cash out, they have been belittled as representing nothing more than fear or confusion. But there are sound philosophical reasons supporting the public's opposition to animal biotechnology and these arguments justify a default position of resistance I call the Presumption of Restraint. The Presumption of Restraint constitutes a justificatory process that sets out the criteria for permitting or rejecting individual biotechnology projects. This Presumption of Restraint can be overridden by compelling arguments that speak to a project's moral and scientific merit. This strategy creates a middle-of-the-road stance that can embrace particular projects, while rejecting others. The Presumption of Restraint can also serve as a model for assessing moral permissibility in other areas of technological innovation.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Animal Experimentation / ethics*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic / genetics
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Biotechnology / ethics*
  • Ethical Theory
  • Ethics, Research*
  • France
  • Genetic Engineering / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Nature
  • Public Opinion*
  • Rabbits
  • United States