The Birth of a Research Animal

Ibsen's The Wild Duck and The Origin of a New Animal Science
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 13)

Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck was written and published in 1884. The initial response to it was one of bewilderment. It left the audience baffled and perplexed. Generations of critics continued to regard it as obscure, undefined, unfathomable, ambiguous, evasive –not in the least because of the mysterious symbol that held it together: an untamed bird in its close and miserable garret, captive to circumstances and with no hope of escape (Meyer 1985).

In this chapter, I intend to re-read the play in a particular manner, namely as a document that records an important event in the history of human–animal interaction. The Wild Duck stages a new and unprecedented animal practice. If we read it in this manner, the play turns out to be remarkably coherent, and apparently futile details suddenly become important and meaningful. It is not my intention, however, to add yet another Ibsen interpretation to those already propounded. Rather, the purpose of this chapter is an epistemological one. I will emphasize that what is happening to Ibsen’s duck on the stage, is remarkably similar to what is happening to some of its contemporaries in a new type of animal research, emerging precisely at that time, destined to become one of the most important forms of animal research of the present.


Research Animal Scientific Practice Wild Duck Animal Practice Christmas Tree 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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