New Scientist: Might “pain-free” be the next sticker slapped onto a rump roast? … Progress in neuroscience and genetics in recent years makes it a very real possibility. … “If we can’t do away with factory farming, we should at least take steps to minimise the amount of suffering that is caused,” says Adam Shriver, a philosopher. … [who] contends that genetically engineered pain-free animals are the most acceptable alternative. …
I would happily suppress my ability to suffer from pain (without suppressing my ability to notice it). I would happily do likewise for animals. And I suspect that linkage will persist: people will not be willing to modify animals "against nature" unless they generally approve of "better living through science". This is simply squeamishness about the breakdown of naive essentialism.
Caveat: suppressing suffering isn't an excuse to give the animals a poor quality of life or slap them around since they "can't be hurt".
Presumably, if it is desirable to genetically engineer cows to feel discomfort instead of pain, then it is equally desirable to engineer humans in that way. In both cases the reasoning is "less pain is better". Yet I suspect the idea would be much more popular for farm animals than for people. Why is this?
Robert, would you consider extending your comment here into a top-level post? Preferably with references cited, or alternatively link us to an article of similar quality?
You sound sincere, and my innate drives would have me agree with you, but a comment alone doesn't do much to shut up the crazies, you know what I mean?
If lives with farm pain are still better than not existing, it is still good to create farm animals even if they suffer more than wild animals.
The emphasis on whether animals in the wild or in factory farms have lives that are worth living on the whole seems to me misplaced. What matters from a welfarist perspective is not whether existing is better for the creature than not existing, but whether bringing the creature into existence is better than not bringing her. The answer to the last question involves comparing the welfare the life of the animal is expected to contain if brought into existence with the welfare we are likely to create otherwise. Even if the life of the animal is not worth living, it might be obligatory to bring her into existence if we are expected to create even more suffering instead; and conversely, we may be prohibited from creating a new life even if the life is worth living, because by failing to create such a life we are likely to produce more welfare still.
Some elementary Hansonian cynicism would seem to be the most obvious explanation: Expressing concern for animals ordinarily signals affiliation with environmentalist groups, Whole Foods, and the Nature-concept, whereas genetic engineering signals non-affiliation with Nature. If people are more concerned with sending a signal or with controlling their affiliations, they'll let the animals suffer.
Mapquest estimates 75 min drive, and that is my best offer so far, though if possible I should focus on the close conditions that are the focus of complaints.
Whoops, this was intended as a reply to your above comment in response to Uwe Reinhardt.
There are some "antinatalists" who deny it is good for people to exist. David Benatar wrote a book about that titled "Better Never to Have Been". Alan Dawrst aka "Utilitarian" is particularly concerned with the suffering of animals and concludes that it would be better for most of them to have never been brought into existence due to the suffering they will experience.
Underwood Farms is out in Culpeper County. Is that reasonably close for you? Granted, they only have 200 head of cattle, which won't really give you a taste of what life is like in a feed lot, but it's probably about as close as you'd get around here.
For those interested in learning about the details of how animals are treated on factory farms, John Robbins provided many details in Part One of his Diet for a New America.
I just added to the post.
When the team injected a noxious, painful chemical into their paws, the mice licked them only briefly. In contrast, normal mice continued to do so for hours afterwards (Neuron, vol 36, p 713).
It continues to amaze me how this kind of cruelty and torture is justified in the name of "science".
I’d be interested in visiting typical meat farms in my area, if that could be arranged.
My father, a very mainstream occupational physician, worked on contract for a number of years at a poultry processing plant providing in-factory medical care. Shortly after he started working there, he completely gave up all factory-farmed meat. I suspect if many of us looked closely at where it comes from, we would change our meat consumption patterns. I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I certainly believe they have some very excellent points in the debate.
A far better option would be to develop in vitro meat.
Reducing pain is not the first priority in increasing an animal's quality of life anyway. I would expect that reducing boredom would be much more important.
The evidence that animals have no conciousness of the passage of longer scale time is inconclusive at best. They're not (or only poorly) capable of forward planning but this is not at all the same. In any case babies have no long term static memory either but no one would suggest that reducing the pain that babies experience is more important than them staying alive.
The whole discussion around morality and animals is paralysed by a poorly thought out concentration on pain reduction as the main ethical issue.
Re: "Man was one of the best thing ever to happen to the cow".
So far, certainly - but we are also very likely to bring the cow's eventual downfall.
"Even among researchers who experiment on animals"?
Heh: he should probably have interviewed some more vegans.
Yes, this is the usual story that makes me give farms the benefit of the doubt. But there are opposing accusations that cause doubt.