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In the name of science: animal appellations and best practice
  1. Jessica du Toit
  1. Philosophy, Western University, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Jessica du Toit, Philosophy, Western University, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada; jess.dutoit{at}


Background The practice of giving animal research subjects proper names is frowned on by the academic scientific community. While researchers provide a number of reasons for desisting from giving their animal subjects proper names, the most common are that (1) naming leads to anthropomorphising which, in turn, leads to data and results that are unobjective and invalid; and (2) while naming does not necessarily entail some mistake on the researcher’s part, some feature of the research enterprise renders the practice impossible or ill-advised.

Objectives My aim is to assess whether the scientific community’s attitude towards naming animal research subjects is justified. That is, I wish to consider whether the practice of naming animal research subjects is good or bad for the purposes of scientific research.

Method After reviewing the extant literature, I constructed a list of the main arguments researchers provide for desisting from naming their animal research subjects. I then analysed these arguments, with a view to determining whether they in fact provide good reasons to avoid naming animal research subjects.

Conclusion I argue that none of the aforementioned reasons usually provide good grounds for not naming animal research subjects. Moreover, there are usually powerful reasons in favour of researchers giving their research animals proper names. This is because the practice usually leads to greater empathy and so to improved animal well-being. This, in turn, leads to better animal science. Thus, the scientific community’s attitude towards naming animal research subjects is not justified.

  • animal experimentation
  • ethics
  • philosophical ethics
  • research ethics
  • speciesism

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  • Correction notice This paper has been updated since first published to correct minor referencing errors.

  • Contributors As the sole author of this article, I was responsible for all of the relevant research and writing.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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