The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

Painless meat

pigsNew Scientist covers the final frontier of factory farming:  animals that don’t mind abominable treatment and slaughter.

My reaction is horror.  What kind of person looks at the suffering in controlled animal feeding operations and thinks:  you know how we could fix this?  By genetically engineering the animals not to care!

I’ve been surprised to see philosophers and economists react more positively than the editors at New Scientist to what strikes me as a monstrous idea.  I wonder if it’s the case that philosophers and economists are more inclined than most to work with an impoverished notion of animal welfare.  It is common enough among philosophers that pain and pleasure are understood as decent proxies for welfare.  We shouldn’t mistake the proxy for the truth.  Pain and pleasure  no more constitute an animal’s welfare than they do a person’s.  Consider wirehead rats:  maximum pleasure, objectively terrible welfare.

Something more like Aristotelean thriving seems closer to the public’s intuitions, when it comes to animal welfare.  (Also, I think, it’s closer to the truth.)  Factory farms disgust us not, at bottom, because the animals in them are in pain.  Their pain flags an underlying problem:  they are systematically prevented from thriving.  Blocking their pain doesn’t allow the pigs to be any more successfully piggy.

Related articles:

£1.99 - small Welfarism
By Simon Keller, University of Melbourne (December 2008)
Philosophy Compass

One comment on “Painless meat

  1. Animal lover
    October 10, 2009

    God have mercy on all these animals being abused and sacrificed.
    I hope more people would check out ‘ Factory Farming Photos and Videos ‘
    at : http://www.hsus.org/farm/multimedia/
    And, may be something can be done to stop the cruelty.

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This entry was posted on October 9, 2009 by in Viewpoint and tagged , , , , , , .

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