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Is It Ethical To Engineer Delicious Cows That Feel No Pain?

That's the question that Jeremy Hsu asks, given innovations in genetic engineering:

In 2006, researchers found six Pakistani children who felt no pain due to an inactivated gene, and who constantly had bruises and cuts. One fell into the habit of putting knives through his hand and walking barefoot on coals, before his untimely death.

Still, scientists already know that humans can intellectually dissociate the sensation of pain from how much it bothers them. Lab experiments with mice have also suggested a way to disconnect that pain sensation without totally leaving animals vulnerable to a world of hurt.


Due the concern among some meat-eaters that the animals that provide their food suffer physical pain while being raised and slaughtered, Hsu wonders if geneticists may be able to create animals that cannot feel pain. Would it be ethical to do so? What do you think?

http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-09/ethical-debate-pain-free-beef

Image: Mitch Romanowski Design

Any animal that feels pain when being raised or being slaughtered will be an animal whose meat is low quality. Stressed animals produce bad quality meats just like stressed vegetables [generally] produce crappy produce.

You might say, "Well, gee, if they can't feel pain, YUM YUM".

Uh, no. Minor pain is a normal part of digestion & growth. If you eat too much, you feel pain. If you are sick, you feel pain. Both kinds of pain are signals to your body to change behavior accordingly, to stop eating or defend against the illness.

Same goes for animals.

So, in fact, this is a stupid idea.

BTW: Foie Gras would be inedible if the ducks/geese were under the claims of stress/pain that the likes of PETA claims. The best foie gras is produced on farms where the ducks/geese are the happiest, and that includes during feeding.
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In response to bbum, I don't think there's any reason to believe that the cows wouldn't know when to stop eating without pain. The physiological mechanisms involved in pain perception are not those primarily responsible for satiety. It is not pain that tells you when to stop eating during a meal. In fact, there are animals which naturally do not have a sense of pain (naked mole rats, which lack Substance P) and they live perfectly well. In fact, they live longer than most rodents (granted, they've had more time to develop adaptations for living this way).

That's not to say there wouldn't be other issues with cows without pain perception. Presumably the same problem humans with this mutation have (e.g. ignoring injuries and lacking fear of things that cause pain) would also be a problem here and could result in more injuries, infections and preventable deaths.
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PETA would have a cow anyway(no pun intended). They argue not only that the animals suffer the physical pain, but also emotional pain, because animals have thoughts and feelings, and even if this thing would make them unable to feel the pain, the cows will still have to deal with the deeply philosophical existential questions they always ask themselves: "What is my purpose in life? Why do people always treat me like a slab of meat?"
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TO ELABORATE:

If the way a child abusing animals reflects the child as a whole, and typically leads to some less than desirable behaviors as an adult - and if the way modern society abusing animals reflects society as a whole, and may lead to some sociopathic, bizarre and less than humane cultural values and international practices in the future - What does something like this make the child?
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Oh miocl, the world would be a better place if people quit listening to the baseless and insane ramblings of a scapegoat organization and asked themselves the question - How do you feel about being a part of and supporting a system that literally enslaves, manufactures and mutates entire species *beyond* the scope of natural selection and the food chain for the purpose of enjoyment and entertainment. Why do we have systems in place to protect endangered species? Because we are good people at heart? Think about it.

In the meantime, reexamine your place in the world, what you mean to your surroundings and what your surroundings mean to you - or if you're like most people - examine it for the first time. Food for thought, and it won't give you the runs at 4am.
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The point "miocl" is trying to make fun of is actually valid. Besides physical pain, there ARE other kinds of misery for cows raised by the hundreds or thousands on a razor-thin profit margin. Their lives are mostly eating more to grow faster, and standing around in poo. If you wouldn't do that to your dog, why do you think the cows don't mind?

So, no to pain-free cows but YES to steaks of beef cells grown in vats with no nervous system to feel pain, joy or anything else.
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I think that this is a good idea for food purposes. It is a healthy alternative if the animal is being raised right. Although, I don't think it's a good idea for human purposes because it can lead to more problems...

If we can do it and its not hurting anyone then why not? (no pun intended)
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I know I'm being an idiom Nazi here, but I think some people don't understand what the phrase "no pun intended" means.

"PETA would have a cow anyway(no pun intended)."

^That HAD to be intended.

"If we can do it and its not hurting anyone then why not? (no pun intended)"

^What pun?

As for the story, I usually have a clear personal sense of ethical issues, but I admit to actually being a bit stumped by this one. It's a frothy mix of pity, convenience and ruthlessness. I feel like there's a Philip K. Dick story in there somewhere.
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I didn't say a cow would stop eating without pain. A cow will stop eating when it is full, different signal. But a cow will also stop eating when some stomachs are empty, but others are full/bloated.

Just like humans. If you have an empty stomach, but are having lower GI issues, how much do you eat? I know that when my ass is in pain, that pain signals for me to not put more food through the system.

The point, though, overall is that pain is a very important part of the set of stimuli that we -- all animals -- have evolved with. Our systems rely on such signals to perform correctly & optimally. Taking the pain away, so to speak, would seriously screw things up.
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*ahem*

"A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox's table, a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns and what might have been an ingratiating smile on its lips.

'Good evening,' it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, 'I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body?' It harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled its hind quarters into a more comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them" (Adams, 119).

From the 1980 Pocket Fiction paperback.
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Or I suppose, more to the point of the topic at hand:

"'A green salad,' said Arthur emphatically.
'A green salad?' said the animal, rolling his eyes disapprovingly at Arthur.
'Are you going to tell me,' said Arthur, 'that I shouldn't have green salad?'
'Well,' said the animal, 'I know many vegetables that are very clear on that point. Which is why it was eventually decided to cut through the whole tangled problem and breed an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and capable of saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am.'
It managed a very slight bow" (Adams, 121).
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rintah, why do you think I'm an idiot? I know what "no pun intended" means, and it wasn't intended. I started writing "PETA would have a cow", and the moment I typed the last 'w' I started giggling, and decided to leave it in anyway. That's the way I speak, and it happens to fit in with the subject at hand, but I wasn't looking to make a pun on purpose. Do you have a better way of not intending a pun?

As for the "As long as nobody's getting hurt", I think I see where aftershock is coming from. You could generally say "as long as nobody's getting hurt" about any subject. But this particular subject *is* about not hurting (animals), which makes it somewhat pun-worthy.
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miocl, I don't think anyone here is an idiot, nor did I say that. But the phrase "no pun intended" is a method of self-editing a statement that can't be redacted, usually because it was said the course of spoken conversation. I noted the fact that I'm being an idiom Nazi about this, but strictly speaking, it's inconsistent to use the phrase within a comment, since you acknowledge your ability to edit the pun by writing (no pun intended). Had you wrote (no pun intended) in a separate comment or, if this was a message board with editing features, in an edit, it would have been more accurate. It would have been completely consistent if you had written (pun totally intended!) or (har har). Or if your delete and backspace keys were broken. But since the act of writing the comment acts as a second filter for thought, it is as intentional as if I were to start this comment off with "I'm not going to inflate the importance of this issue far more than it deserves" (clearly I AM inflating the importance of this issue far more than it deserves, and would have acknowledged the fact by writing such and then hitting the Submit button.) In any case, while I'm acknowledging that, I might as well apologize for it, as well as for apparently irritating you.

As for aftershock's comment, whether she/he originally meant to generalize and accidentally hit upon something particular, the words they use still actually mean the exact same thing, so it's not truly a pun, which is when you say something that has two meanings that are different but equally applicable.
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If an animal feels no pain, does this make it more difficult to tell when it is sick, and in need of treatment/not suitable for consumption?
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To deal with the other forms of cow pain, we'll set up a virtual reality simulation that the cows will spend their entire lives in. (think The Matrix)

They will experience only happy events, green fields and sexy members of the opposite sex (or same sex if they swing that way).

This system will produce the best tasting and most ethical meat ever experienced by mankind. I suggest we start with pigs. They're smarter, grow faster and tastier. Both we and they would see a larger benefit sooner.
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Ethical on what level? Do the end up less dead?
As the article implies, pain is necessary for survival as it lets us know what is bad for us. Pain is an effect of something wrong with the body. Not feeling pain doesn't mean there's nothing wrong.

None of this addresses the broader issues with meat. Millions of acres of land is taken up growing grain, not to feed to people, but to feed to animals that yield a lower nutritional value than if we ate the grain ourselves. Any way you look at it, that's a bad investment. You don't have to care about animal welfare to see that our assumptions about food supply are unsustainable.
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No pun intended means that whatever the person said previous to this saying was not meant to be funny even though it could be taken in a humorous way.
I didn't want to erase what I had just written just because it could be thought that I wrote it on purpose to make a pun. I don't mind idiom Nazis, but if you replace the m with a t, then I begin to get annoyed :) It's not complicated. I wrote something, turned to be funny(ish) without me meaning it, I left it.
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bucketoclams... I'm glad that someone caught the reference there. Douglas Adams rose the same philosopical question... but now it seems more like he saw it coming.
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Isn't this a no brainer?

Something we all agree on: We will always eat meat. Humans will always raise cows, whether they feel pain or not, in order to kill them and eat them.

So if we CAN get a cow that feels no pain - that can only be better than the status quo, right?
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