Bureaucracy of being a good person.

This week’s required blog post is focused on ethics. We were asked to find a ‘code of ethics’ from an organization within our area of study.

In my studies, I am fighting for the animals. My research is all to increase humane science; therefore, I choose the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) to analyze their ethical standards. I have copied the code of ethics for AALAS from their website:

Code of Ethics

“The Code of Ethics for members of AALAS has been adopted by the Board of Trustees to promote and maintain the highest standards of professional and personal conduct among its members. Adherence to these standards is required for membership in the Association and serves to assure public confidence in the integrity and service of AALAS members.

  1. Maintain the highest standard of personal conduct.
  2. Promote and encourage the highest level of ethics within the profession of laboratory animal science.
  3. Maintain loyalty to the profession of laboratory animal science and pursue its objective in ways that are consistent with the public interest.
  4. Recognize and discharge my responsibility and that of my position to uphold all laws and regulations relating to the profession of laboratory animal science.
  5. Strive for excellence in all aspects of the profession of laboratory animal science.
  6. Use only legal and ethical means in all professional activities.
  7. Maintain the confidentiality of privileged information entrusted or known to me by virtue of my position.
  8. Refuse to engage in, or countenance, activities for personal gain at the expense of the profession of laboratory animal science.
  9. Always communicate associated internal and external statements in a truthful and accurate manner.
  10. Cooperate in every reasonable and proper way with others and work with them in the advancement of the profession of laboratory animal science.
  11. Use every opportunity to improve public understanding of the role of the profession of laboratory animal science.”

This thought exercise has been more interesting than I would have expected. I personally really like ethics. I like thinking critically about difficult situations and I see myself pursuing a field in ethical policy, but….This code of ethics is bullshit. This list of eleven standards means nothing. For instance, what is the highest order of personal conduct referred to in number one? Number six says a scientist should use only legal and ethical means in all professional activities….Why do you need to tell people that? This is something every professional should be doing, not because the board of trustees requires it, but because it is the right thing to do. I also have a huge issue with number eight. ALL laboratory animal science is for the personal gain of human beings….And notice how nothing really highlights protecting the animal rights. Also, if you do not uphold these standards, what is the consequence? Oh no, you are no longer apart of a society! Society membership is not required to do laboratory animal science nor do I think anyone will give two shits if it is on your CV.

I feel like a lot of policy in academia, not just ethical, is just words; words highlighting the obvious. To be ethical in your work is much more than just words. To be ethical, one must actually THINK about what they stand for. It requires a reassessment of the morals you have developed and time to actually imagine situations where your better half must shine through. Animal science comes with more ethical issues than most fields and, as this code of ethics indicates, there is some serious heart missing from the equation. The animals have rights too, but instead we are worried about our scientist upholding the law and being truthful.  Once again, I feel this is another example of pointless bureaucracy trying to mandate people to be good, yet in such a robotic way, that it won’t actually impact the world.

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