Meat eaters looking for ways to enjoy a guilt-free hamburger have looked to ethical ranches and more humane slaughtering methods. But some suggest that instead of getting rid of factory farming, we should eliminate cow's pain.
In a paper published in this month's Neuroscience, philosopher Adam Shriver suggested that genetically engineering cows to feel no pain could be an acceptable alternative to eliminating factory farming. And some neuroscientists are on their way to making Shriver's suggestion a very real possibility. Zhou-Feng Chen, a neuroscientist at Washington University, has been working on identifying the genes that "affective" pain, the unpleasantness associated with painful sensations. Chen and his team have identified a gene called P311, and have found that mice who lack P311 do not have negative associations with pain, although they do react negatively to heat and pressure. Chen believes that, with the removal of the same P311 gene, livestock like pigs and cows could be engineered to feel no pain.
So what are the ethicists saying? Peter Singer, the famed bioethicist and author of Animal Liberation, has often advocated vegetarianism and veganism to avoid animal suffering, but says if livestock could be bred to feel no pain, he would not take issue with the cruelty aspect of factory farming. However Singer, and other ethicists note that, even with pain-free meat, the environmental impact of factory farming cannot be ignored.
Pain-free animals could take suffering out of farming [New Scientist]