Bioethics Blogs

On a Radioactive Pig and Pope Francis

“If you look through the red-tinted glass, you will see the radioactive pig,” said the director of animal laboratories at my university–let’s call her Susan–near the start of my tour of the facility. There on a concrete floor, within a steel cage, was a large solitary sow, lying on her side, legs pointed left. I couldn’t see her face, and her breathing was barely detectable. “For obvious reasons,” Susan said, “she doesn’t receive any visits or have any time with other animals. When the research is done, she will be euthanized.” 

Next I was directed to another hallway door. Through the window I saw six other pigs locked in individual stalls. A few were standing and some were lying down – none were moving. I could only see their hindquarters (which were large) and the back of one head. “They are here as part of an obesity study,” I was told. Though pigs are highly social animals who require social contact and exercise and thrive with a varied diet, just like we do, these pigs were condemned to isolation and immobility.

Cats and dogs followed. Peering into the tinted glass portal, I saw four tabby cats lying in barren cages; a fifth was out, her question mark tail below me, passing in and out of view. The nearby room with dogs was about the same size as the one for cats – approximately 12 feet by 16 feet – with cages on the long walls and an alley in between. As we approached the window, the dogs erupted in barking.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.