Dr. John Gluck, Faculty Affiliate of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, recently published a manuscript-length volume in his longtime area of study: animal research ethics. Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals: A Primate Scientist’s Ethical Journey chronicles Gluck’s personal transformation from an ethically-conflicted scientific researcher to a thoughtful and passionate animal rights advocate and theorist.
It was a journey that started early. In a profile of his work recently published by the Times Higher Education (THE), Gluck reminisces: “Early in my life, members of my immediate family came to suffer from a variety of serious medical disorders. I saw the false hope provided by useless medical interventions and the stoicism required to live despite the burden of disability.”
As a university student in Texas, Gluck found a “completely alien” life: “effusively friendly people, real cowboys, big agriculture, large animals and guns. When I wasn’t in class or in the lab, I was working on friends’ farms and ranches. I saw food animals both respected for their strength and intelligence and treated like mechanical products. I was baffled by the clash of values.”
As Gluck embarked on a career in animal research, he grew increasingly disenchanted with the callous attitude of fellow primate scientists, and troubled by his own complicity in what he came to view as deeply unethical resarch.
“Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals is a brave book,” says reviewer Kristin Andrews, a professor of philosophy and cognitive science at York University, “because there is something in it that will anger those on different sides of the animal rights debate.”
Indeed, Gluck seems to have struck a nerve. “A cohort of long-time primate researchers have expressed opposition to my project and attacked my credibility,” he shares in the THE profile. “On the other hand, I have received thanks from some established scientists who appreciate the expression of ethical concern that I offer and express remorse about their lack of willingness to have done so more openly themselves. As Plato asserted, we don’t teach others ethics, we remind them.”