Can technology succeed where morality has stalled?

13 03 2014

Knocking Out Pain in Livestock: Can Technology Succeed Where Morality has Stalled?” was the paper we discussed at the weekly ABW meeting this week: It is a really nice article by Adam Shriver, who until quite recently was a neighbour of ours at Western but is is now based in Philadelphia. His argument is similar to one made by Yeates, who suggested that if we can create non-sentient animals that have “Lives without Experiences”, we can stop worrying about the welfare harms of farming.

I think this is logically and ethically sound, and enjoyed the paper (as we all did, though we all admitted having to look up the word “deontological”). It had three limitations though. One is that it sought to excise abilities to suffer, but its specific were all about pain, and of course pain is not the only welfare problem: fear, hunger and frustration are major ones too (and if believing that these animals felt no pain caused people to treat them more roughly, then the problem of fear could become even worse…). The second is that you’d have to be really, really sure you had knocked out conscious affect to advocate this practice with confidence. The third is that it’s kind of ikky … a ‘yuk’ response I don’t have much time for, but which could ruin attempts to make it commercially viable.

Along similar if more artistic lines, check out the ‘Centre for Unconscious Farming’ pictured below (with more coverage here).

Screen shot 2014-03-13 at 6.54.39 PM