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Should Animals Be Genetically Engineered So They Don't Feel Pain?

04/21/2010 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

The New York Times had a very interesting Op-Ed Friday, which took an unusual approach to the concern that factory farms are inhumane. Adam Shriver, a doctoral student in the philosophy-neuroscience-psychology program at Washington University, makes the argument that the key to raising more humane meat isn't changing the methods by which they are raised, but to genetically engineer them so they feel less pain from their conditions.

We are most likely stuck with factory farms, given that they produce most of the beef and pork Americans consume. But it is still possible to reduce the animals' discomfort -- through neuroscience. Recent advances suggest it may soon be possible to genetically engineer livestock so that they suffer much less.

Shriver's Op-Ed raises several questions. Is the most appalling part about factory farms -- where animals are fed unnatural diets, live in filthy conditions, and are subject to preemptive antibiotics -- is that they are suffering? Confined Animal Feedlot Operations are responsible for huge amounts of waste, which threaten groundwater, air quality and can pose public health risks. Meat production is also responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all modes of transportation. Would genetically engineering animals so they suffer less help factory farms flourish, without addressing the environmental risks they pose? Is genetically engineering our food supply to appeal to a moral conscience about suffering appropriate?

Tell us what you think.

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