Wednesday, 2 September 2009

never mind modified vegetables: genetic engineering gone really wrong

An article in
New Scientist reports that researchers are investigating ways to produce pain-free animals to reduce or eliminate animal suffering in factory farms. Reducing animal suffering I'm on board with, but there are some seriously screwed up aspects of this kind of research.

For one thing, the main proponent of this idea (who is featured in the article), a philosopher (and neuroethicist?) from Washington University, bases his proposal on some very skewed ground. He's quoted as follows:
"If we can't do away with factory farming, we should at least take steps to minimise the amount of suffering that is caused . . . I'm offering a solution where you could still eat meat but avoid animal suffering."
  1. Why can't we do away with factory farming? Giving up on the idea is a sure way to guarantee it will never happen.
  2. Sure, let's make it easier for people to ignore their relationship with the food they consume. We need a better understanding of what we're eating, not a hand blocking that kind of knowledge and responsibility from our minds.
Besides, the problem isn't that animals in factory farms feel pain. The problem is that our attitudes toward animals and view of them as resources makes it acceptable, even desirable, to put them in factory farms in the first place. Eliminating or reducing the animals' perception of pain does nothing to improve their conditions or encourage a more highly developed understanding of our interdependent relationships with animals. It just makes us feel better about engaging in use and abuse. And as page two of the article points out, there are additional problems with industrial agriculture, such as the environmental damage such practices cause.

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