Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Pain-Free Meat

I recently read of the idea of using our advanced technology to remove the capacity for our farm animals to feel pain. I've thought about whether that would be a good way to go, and I'm kind of on the fence. I see logic in both sides of the argument, and if actually faced with making the final decision I assign slightly higher chance to go down the path of no-pain meat but not completely like it.

So, why would I oppose it? Suffering is bad, right, and I want to reduce suffering in the world? Yes. However, a question to that question is "Is it suffering even if the organism can't actually feel the suffering?" A common comparison is taking a human child, knocking it out, then raping it. It can't feel any discomfort, if you do it right the child won't have any memory of it, what's the harm?

My main source of discomfort is where such actions will lead us. If it becomes common practice to knock people out and do things normally considered abusive to conscious people, how far will it go, and why should we think the abuse will simply stop at unconscious people? If we remove the capacity of animals to feel pain, are we then going to stack pigs as we stack logs, carve them up piece by piece instead of killing them in one go? Are these actions only wrong when done on an organism able to cognitively tell they are harmful? Do they cease being bad if we remove that cognitive ability and leave everything else the same?

I'm uncomfortable with where such a policy as pain-free meat could lead us. The fact that other organisms feel pain is a strong trait that lets us empathize with them, and want to improve their lives. If we remove that, we get used to harming things-with-faces, complex organisms that just happen to not feel pain anymore. Why would it stop there? Isn't it conceivable that such a careless attitude toward life in general will have negative consequences for how we treat any life, pain-feeling or not?

Underneath my desire to alleviate suffering in organisms is the more primary desire to increase life span and quality in organisms. Alleviating suffering is just a traditional heuristic to accomplish that goal. I think that if we can reach a future where farm animals are no longer necessary for our survival (vegans argue we're at this stage, I disagree for many reasons, one of which is our bodies really do need meat), then we shouldn't cultivate animals for food.

To me, simply removing pain doesn't go far enough. I want to remove the organism, and simply grow the food. What I mean is, while humanity is still dependent on meat, I think instead of raising animals to eat, we should simply create the food directly via e.g. meat-cloning or in the further out future nanotech food dispensers similar in spirit to Star Trek's.

So, obviously this isn't yet technologically or economically possible, but it's coming. In the meantime, is pain-free meat an acceptable alternative? Again, I don't know where it would lead us to how we treat life-in-general, but I think the closeness of the better technologies of the future is enough to make me say "Yeah, remove the pain, it's better than not removing the pain." Where I fear humanity could go with pain-free animals appears like it would take at least a generation; if I found out today that cats don't really feel any pain at all, I'm not going to want to go out and kick some cats for fun. Would my children or children's children? Who knows, but I think at that point in time humanity has a good chance of either being extinct or enlightened with respect for life.

Posted on 2010-06-05 by Jach

Tags: cloning, food


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Blah blah June 20, 2010 08:19:35 PM Test comment ignore me please.
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