‘Chimpopolis’: Science, Society, and the Philosophical Animal

PI: Letitia Meynell

Co-applicants: G.K.D. Crozier and Andrew Fenton

Collaborators: Sue Donaldson, Sona Ghosh, John Gluck, Will Kymlicka, David Peña-Guzmán, Tony Smith.


The animal sciences increasingly support the view that humans are not the only species with rich mental, social, and emotional lives. These discoveries are having an impact on social norms, including science policies governing animal experimentation on nonhuman animals. Too often, however, policy changes and welfare guidelines reflect views of other animals as objects, property, resources, or tools.

In Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka offer a political framework for understanding the ethical dimensions of human-nonhuman interactions such that our ethical responsibilities to other animals arise from how we co-exist in our respective communities. At the heart of the ‘Zoopolian’ approach is the recognition that many nonhuman animals are particular others and that we ought to interact with them in ways responsive to both their species-typical characteristics and their individual personalities (including their competencies for living independently and their preferences of treatment).

Our project will develop the implications of this theory for science policy, scientific practice, and knowledge production in science. We bring two commitments together: (a) using the best available science when discussing the capacities and attendant vulnerabilities of other animals of moral concern, and (b) re-envisioning our moral relationships with other animals free of anthropocentric bias. Chimpanzees are ideal candidates to narrow our focus as their expressed preferences of treatment, social competences, and sense of communal cohesion and identity permit a particular application of Donaldson and Kymlicka’s framework that crosses contexts as diverse as laboratories, sanctuaries, zoos, and free-living populations,
News and Recent Activities

Master's fellowship for studying Animal Philosophy at Dalhousie University, starting September 2017 (click here for details)

Andrew Fenton presented "From Farm to Laboratory: Toward Aligning Ethical Frameworks" at the annual meeting of the Atlantic Region Philosophers Association  (October 2016)

Andrew Fenton and David Peña-Guzmán presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (October 2016) 

G.K.D. Crozier, Andrew Fenton, Lori Marino, Letitia Meynell and David M. Peña-Guzmán posted a blog, "Public Comment: Should NIH Fund Research on Human-Animal Chimeras?" on the Hastings Bioethics Forum Blog

G.K.D. Crozier, Andrew Fenton, Letitia Meynell and David M. Peña-Guzmán published a letter to the editor of Maclean's (part of Free Gorillas)

We organized the Political Animals panel at the public library with panelists, Will Kymlicka, Gillian Crozier and Vaughan Black, moderated by Andrew Fenton and generously sponsored by the RSC Atlantic (among others)