Thursday, January 13, 2011

Animal Tagging Ethics

King Penguins. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
New research published in the journal Nature says that the most popular way for tagging penguins for scientific analysis - putting a band around a flipper - may be detrimental to the penguins' reproduction and survival. This brings up the ethical issue of whether or not the practice of tagging with a band should be continued.

Researchers from the University of Strasbourg and the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) wanted to clear up debate about whether or not the tags, which have been in use for over a decade, have an effect on the penguins detrimental or otherwise.

The study, in king penguins, showed that penguins tagged with the bands had 40% fewer chicks than un-banded penguins. Banded penguins also lived shorter lives. The finding is likely to be controversial because it draws into question the validity of past research done using the bands.

The research also has ties to climate change because many penguin species are already threatened due to changes in their environment. In addition to the typical ethics of whether or not its right to do something that could be harmful in any way, tagging with the bands could also be seen as unethical for stressing an already challenged populations.

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