On “Knockout Animals”
Today's New York Times gives us Adam Shriver's Op-Ed "Not Grass-Fed, But at Least Pain-Free," which presents its dilemma at the end:
If we cannot avoid factory farms altogether, the least we can do is eliminate the unpleasantness of pain in the animals that must live and die on them. It would be far better than doing nothing at all.
Some might consider this a false dilemma, as built into it is the presumption that "we cannot avoid factory farms altogether" when we easily can. It's a choice. Anyone can make it if they want to.
But let's say I have chosen to avoid factory farming, and in fact the consumption of animals entirely (to the extent that it's practical), while most people will make no such choice. Is it true that the least I can do is support the engineering of animals who experience less unpleasantness than they would have had they not been engineered that way?
Before you answer, here are some details to inform your decision:
- The first "knockout animals" were laboratory rats, whose anterior cingulate cortex have been damaged/blocked so that though they might still feel pain, they do not find it unpleasant. In other words, the perception of pain is affected. Now, any medication we take and surgical procedures we undergo also have a long line of breeding, enslavement, torture and killing of sentient nonhumans leading up to them, so objecting to "knockout animals" on those grounds is to stand on somewhat thin ice. My objection is: Why do such research when you don't need to? Why kill and maim and waste taxpayer dollars–or any dollars–on such things?
- Here's the part that either I'm misunderstanding, or makes one wonder what all of the buzz is about:
Because the sensory dimension of the animals’ pain would be preserved, they would still be able to recognize and avoid, when possible, situations where they might be bruised or otherwise injured.
Like when they're about to be, say, slaughtered?
This is where I'm confused. This proposed measure would take away some of the perception of pain, but what about the terror? What about all of the elements of being confined and enslaved and killed and watching others meet their untimely demises? What about boredom and frustration? What about being torn from your family? What about being raped?
Here's what I see: Once again, as with attempts to convince the public that animal farming could ever be humane, humans are desperate to provide alternatives to consuming animals that don't include not consuming animals. This reinforces the notion that you have to have some kind of superhuman degree of willpower to decide not to kill anyone or have anyone killed for you (if it's not necessary).
I don't think that people who are going to eat animals no matter what care what degree of pain the animals are feeling because they're currently feeling more pain than any of us can imagine and those people are still eating them.
Not to mention the reality that there is so much more involved in being bred for slaughter than pain, and none of that is addressed. And of course, the reality that all of this involves using sentient nonhumans when that's unnecessary isn't even considered.
If a person cares about what "livestock" experience on their way to becoming "meat," there is one easy, inexpensive action that person can take to make certain s/he is not a party to the various kinds and levels of suffering and injustice the animals experience. That action is to opt out and go vegan.