Would Pain-Free Animals Make a More Humane Hamburger?

Sep 03, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Researchers say that breeding pain-free farm animals is less of a technological issue and more of an ethical issue. Image credit: Guido Gerding.

(PhysOrg.com) -- With advancements in genetic engineering, researchers say that it may soon be possible to breed farm animals that don't feel pain. The suggestion has sparked controversy on whether denying animals the ability to feel pain is inhumane itself, even if it does limit the amount of suffering the animals endure when raised at factory farms.

In recent decades, humans have been consuming more and more meat. Since the 1960s, human consumption of meat has increased by 50 percent, most of it coming from factory farms. Despite demands by animal rights groups for better treatment of farm , eliminating animal suffering seems to be an unrealistic goal. For example, chickens often have part of their beaks removed without anesthesia to prevent them from pecking each other. If factory farms can't be persuaded to raise animals in humane environments, then maybe it's time to provide the animals with an inborn defensive mechanism of their own.

The solution may not be ideal, but, as Adam Shriver, a philosopher at Washington University in St. Louis says, "If we can't do away with factory farming, we should at least take steps to minimize the amount of suffering that is caused."

In recent years, scientists have made progress in manipulating the molecular and genetic bases for pain. A recent study found that mice that lack the Nav1.7 gene are less sensitive than normal mice to heat and pressure. Possibly, farm animals that lack such a gene would also suffer less under conditions.

In another study, scientists have engineered mice that lack specific enzymes and genes in the (ACC). This alteration enabled the animals to still sense pain, but not feel it as an unpleasant sensation. By still feeling physical sensation, the animals could avoid unintentionally injuring themselves, which often happens in individuals who are born without the ability to feel at all.

But there are other alternatives to pain-free animals, one of which is producing meat in vitro. Although not fully developed yet, the procedure involves growing animal muscle cells that could be used in processed meats such as chicken nuggets and fish sticks. However, lab-grown animal cells are currently costly, since they require expensive nutrients, and the technology would need to be scaled up in order to be profitable. Besides eliminating animal suffering, this option could also eliminate the other negative side effects of factory farms, including the large amounts of waste and greenhouse gases that are generated.

via: New Scientist

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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User comments : 39

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defunctdiety
3.5 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2009
But there are other alternatives to pain-free animals, one of which is producing meat in vitro.

Hopefully what they're really working on is growing hearts and kidneys and the like for transplant needs, and generic "meat" just comes as a first step...
kasen
3.2 / 5 (9) Sep 03, 2009
Adam Shriver, a philosopher at Washington University in St. Louis says, "If we can't do away with factory farming, we should at least take steps to minimize the amount of suffering that is caused."


And that's why I don't like modern philosophers...This is the single sickest idea I've ever heard. Just plain sick and retarded. Quintessentially human.
rincewind
3 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2009
Adam Shriver, a philosopher at Washington University in St. Louis says, "If we can't do away with factory farming, we should at least take steps to minimize the amount of suffering that is caused."




And that's why I don't like modern philosophers...This is the single sickest idea I've ever heard. Just plain sick and retarded. Quintessentially human.


It's worse than what we have?
kasen
2.4 / 5 (11) Sep 03, 2009
What, the idea? It definitely is. For one thing, there are a few hundred million happy and healthy vegeterians that have proven that we don't need meat to survive. In fact, I believe we need to lay off the stuff completely if we want any sustainability as a species. Meat is just plain inefficient. So the premise is unfounded.
rincewind
5 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2009
So your 'beef' is not really with this philosopher but with the meat industry :-)
otto1923
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 03, 2009
"If god didnt want us to eat animals, why'd he make them out of meat?"

-Instead of pain-free why not seek to make them brain-free? Semi-animistic slabs of food with organs on very slow conveyor belts? Unplug, process, wrap and ship to market. Yum. Dont even need heads, nothing edible there, only good for prions.
rincewind
5 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2009
May I propose for you the morally neutral Kurzweil-diet: 250 pills daily, accompanied by intravenous feeds & 24/7 monitoring of bodily functions.
Allaytros
3.2 / 5 (6) Sep 03, 2009
You can't undo billions of years of evolution. We are designed to kill and eat, and we will do it even if we think it might be wrong. It is part of us. You might successfully stop eating meat, but you'll never be a non meat eater. You can't change what you are.
supn9
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 03, 2009
A more humane burger is a mushroom burger!!!
otto1923
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 03, 2009
You might successfully stop eating meat, but you'll never be a non meat eater. You can't change what you are.
Actually, we're omnivores as are most animals in varying degrees. As any species will always tend to diverge, to take advantage of new niches and such, there will be individuals who might feel more comfortable as grazers while others might feel the urge to feed on them. Like marsupials in Australia. The gentleman might remain a meat eater but his decendents may roam the plains in herds.
otto1923
4 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2009
Kurzweil- yeah if I had a brain like his I'd want to live forever. I WANT a brain like his. I feel cheated that I didn't get one near as good. Trouble is if the majority of people had brains like that, the world wouldn't work as we know it. Democracy wouldn't work. Capitalism wouldn't work.
Arkaleus
3.6 / 5 (8) Sep 04, 2009
Kasen:

I agree eating meat is barbaric, primitive, and perhaps cruel. However, I am also aware that meat is fantastic food and is delicious as it is nutritious. We really do need to progress genetics and biotechnology so meats can be grown rather than slaughtered from intelligent creatures.

You come down unnecessarily hard on the scientist who wants to make pain free animals. Such a development would be right-headed, if only a cursory step in becoming independent of devouring other intelligent life forms to feed ourselves.

Coincidentally, I was thinking deep about this yesterday. I considered for the first time in my life becoming vegetarian for the very same reasons you state. It's a blasted troglodyte habit to eat the flesh of other life forms, and I really think it's inevitable we will progress beyond it. But we aren't yet fully "weaned" (we is baby species!) We need a little more time to grow, and the fact is we all love animals and if we had a better means of getting the foods our bodies crave we would not eat them at all.
john649
1 / 5 (3) Sep 04, 2009
Why don't we just clone humans who don't like meat, then we wouldn't have to worry about the ethics of abusing animals, solve the global warming problems from factory farms, let the animals live the life they were meant to have and make the scientists rich...
rincewind
5 / 5 (3) Sep 04, 2009
Otto

U don't want to live forever? How about having the option to live as long as you want*?
kasen
2.3 / 5 (7) Sep 04, 2009
So your 'beef' is not really with this philosopher but with the meat industry


Both, actually. However, at the very least, the people in the meat industry don't claim to be intellectuals or anything, they're just after profits. A philosopher should be the last person to suggest we can objectively understand what a sentient creature experiences.

Just an opinion, but I think there shouldn't be such things as 'philosophers', it should be auxiliary to a different occupation. Philosophy in itself has no tangible goals and cannot provide certainty, it's just good mental exercise.

You come down unnecessarily hard on the scientist who wants to make pain free animals.


If they'd do it for research purposes only, then I'd be okay with it. And I'm sure that's why they're personally doing it for, heck, they could very well be vegetarians themselves. As scientists, however, they should be well aware of the implications of their work and be responsible.

It shouldn't be hard for a person who knows basic thermodynamics to realise that meat has a lower energetic output than input, no matter how you put it. That's at the most basic level, cows eating more calories than their meat contains, without including stuff like transportation, refrigeration or waste disposal.

Furthermore, as far as nutrients are concerned, the only advantage that meat has is that it contains all essential amino acids. A sufficiently varied vegetarian diet does too, however, and there are far more health benefits with it than with meat.

Instead of doing complicated genetic engineering to alleviate a very subjective feeling of guilt, why not do a bit of biochemistry to improve the taste of meat alternatives? I'm pretty sure we already have the technology, in fact.

People say meat is tastier and whatnot, but get serious. A wine taster who is offered a glass of expensively labeled wine will invariably say it's better than a cheap labeled wine. And those guys are supposed to be highly trained and have a heightened taste sense. I doubt the average Joe could tell any difference between a sufficiently flavoured soy burger and a FatMac. More likely, he'll say the soy burger tastes better...
Japones
4.3 / 5 (7) Sep 04, 2009
The problem is not about eating meat, but how we treat and kill the animals that we'll eat.

Please read "The Omnivore's Dilemma".
ArtflDgr
4.2 / 5 (6) Sep 04, 2009
this makes douglas adams of hitchikers guide to the galazy fame prescient. why not go all the way and make a cow that talks and WANTS to be food? voila, the scene at the big bang burger bar... (or was it the restauarant at the end of the universe?)

Birthmark
5 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2009
I would feel 10 times better eating meat if I knew the animals was not in pain when it died (I think there's other more humane options, where maybe no animal life even has to be taken. In some countries they take cats put them in bags and throw them in boiling water, they'll take big dogs by the tail and whack them as hard as they can against the ground over and over until it dies. People can be such cruel sadistic creatures.
Shaffer
1.5 / 5 (4) Sep 04, 2009
Would soldiers who can't feel pain not be mourned? I really don't care...as long as my bacon still clogs my arteries, I'm happy.
RFC
2.8 / 5 (4) Sep 04, 2009
I was born allergic to fish, nuts, beans, peas, and wheat. When I eat more than a bite of these foods, I end up in the hospital. I also react (though not as much) to yeast, bananas and a fair assortment of other fruits and vegetables.

Could I be a vegetarian? Highly doubtful, and I'm not about to try it. There are a few vegies that I know are "safe" for me and I eat them with chicken, pork and beef (which have always been safe for me).

So, the whole "morality" aspect of this article and this thread is a bit surreal to me. Whether it's a trick of genetics or the radioactive spider that bit me as a baby, I don't have the choices many of you do. Pardon me if I opt out of some of these sweeping moral judgments.
mroduner
5 / 5 (3) Sep 04, 2009
@Birthmark



I might be a bit biased, as I grew up on a ranch... but I must say that there are responsible ranchers who take good measures to insure a "happy" life for their animals. All of the cattle ranchers I know of are either animal lovers, or out of business shortly. Now, mind you, this does not apply to poultry, most pork producers, and a majority of dairymen. I find their practices absolutely abhorrent, and I do not consume those products.



Aside from my family's sentiments, well cared for animals make financial sense. The vast majority of beef producers know that that a well cared for animal, humanly raised and prepared for consumption is a superior product. The animals stress levels produce poor flavors, substandard fat content, and lower yields per animal. Our standard procedure is giving them actual open pasture for most of their lives. Only during a short period known as "finishing" do they go to feedlots, and even then, they are not the crowded, filthy conditions their dairy cousins must contend with.



When the animals are ready for market, even the slaughtering process is designed to be humane and stress free. The animals are killed out of sight from the rest, with a simply interruption of neural functioning. They never feel a thing, nor are they even a spectacle that would create any stress at all for the other cattle.



I hope at least you can feel better about eating one kind of meat. Oh, and for responsible pork products, buy a pig from a local fair or exhibition. They are normally raised by children rewarded for taking time to properly care for the animal. Poultry on the other hand, I really can't make you feel any better about that in any way. I won't even eat poultry that I have not seen personally raised.
siouxdax
1.7 / 5 (7) Sep 04, 2009
It's scary what God has allowed us to uncover and exploit.
defunctdiety
2.4 / 5 (7) Sep 04, 2009
I've never understood "moral vegetarians"... When you consider pain is just a negative chemical response to stimuli, and that plants have the same capability for negative chemical responses to stimuli, a moral vegetarian should see that they shouldn't eat plants either, and if they really want to do animals (and plants - i.e. all life forms capable of responding negatively to stimuli) a favor the best thing they could do is end their own life. That plants can't vocalize it, or it's not as readily apparent visibly as in animals, is merely details, no different in principle.

i.e. a part of life is pain, to be alive is to feed on other life, to deny that on one level but not another is absurd and you are only lieing to yourself
jselin
not rated yet Sep 04, 2009
I've never understood "moral vegetarians"... When you consider pain is just a negative chemical response to stimuli, and that plants have the same capability for negative chemical responses to stimuli, a moral vegetarian should see that they shouldn't eat plants either, and if they really want to do animals (and plants - i.e. all life forms capable of responding negatively to stimuli) a favor the best thing they could do is end their own life. That plants can't vocalize it, or it's not as readily apparent visibly as in animals, is merely details, no different in principle.



i.e. a part of life is pain, to be alive is to feed on other life, to deny that on one level but not another is absurd and you are only lieing to yourself


Ok so I just had a realization... all we really need is a continuous supply of blood glucose and the proper vitamins and minerals right? It would be conceivable that a system could be developed to continually produce glucose from atmospheric CO2 and an energy source as a sort of external power unit. Instead of picking up a bucket of chicken from KFC you could grab a liter of whatever for your fuel cell. I can see something like this having a place in space exploration.

Maybe those opposed to eating animals AND plants could walk around with solar panels on their backs. lol
defunctdiety
not rated yet Sep 04, 2009
Maybe those opposed to eating animals AND plants could walk around with solar panels on their backs. lol

Let it be known I am not opposed to eating animals or plants, I was just trying to point out the ridiculousness of moral vegetarianism.

Seriously, if that's your view you should at the very least be vegan and carry through that superficial principle through to it's conclusion. No animal products, period (don't let the staggering number of items which animals products are used in surprise or dissuade you).

Vegans = respectable

moral vegetarians = half-assed foolishness
defunctdiety
1 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2009
And really we shouldn't forget, that a moral vegetarian should also be opposed to the use of products which animals could have been harmed in the making/use of, such as crops and trees and ores and fossil fuels where animal habitat is destroyed and animals killed in the effort to obtain these resources, so no cars no homes no electricity, yea just kill yourself, it's really the only way to spare the animals suffering.
Towchain
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 04, 2009
All meat eaters raise your hand if you wouldn't kick a dog because it would be cruel to cause pain to an animal for pleasure. Now slap yourself in the forehead with your raised hand.
SmartK8
not rated yet Sep 04, 2009
It shouldn't be hard for a person who knows basic thermodynamics to realise that meat has a lower energetic output than input, no matter how you put it.


As well as any other food you'll grow. Otherwise it'd violate that rule and we'd be using it as an energy source. But I got your point. Anyway, are the veggies really against eating meat because of all the animal suffering, or are they just the proponents of (in their opinion) a healthier food life-style nowadays ? Let me rephrase. Would you eat star-trek like replicated meat (no suffering, exact copy of a real meat) ? It's not a question to be answered here in this forum, but rather in private, for yourself.
MorituriMax
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2009
I wish they would genetically engineer a meat plant so we can get vegetarians and peta out of our faces.
MorituriMax
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2009
Siouxdax,
It's scary what God has allowed us to uncover and exploit.


It's even more scary that you would think there is a God who allows babies to be born with downs sydrome, or to be susceptible to SIDS. In fact, any of a countless multitude of things that you seem to think are okay as well, as long as God is out there to watch it all go on every day.
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2009
I once tried the vegetarian life style. Not only did I become more flatulant, I had severe energy problems that would not go away until I ate my first piece of meat in weeks. I made sure that I included so varied a diet that I got all the amino acids needed and the vitamins. My hair even began falling out. I later came to find out that I also was being poisoned by brussels sprouts because of a buildup of toxins inherent in them!

The vegetarian lifestyle is not for everyone and can even kill some people who become allergic to phytochemicals.
MorituriMax
1 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2009
dachpyravile

You obviously need to get dinovite to make your coat shiny and full and to stop the scratching and bad breath.

8 )
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2009
I am not the only person with problems that developed from vegetarian diets. What would you suggest for people who are allergic to phytochemicals? You know, those who eat a vegetable and go into anaphalactic shock?

The only things they can eat is what specifically lacks the particular chemicals and/or meat. And, the number of people allergic to phytochemicals is growing.
otto1923
not rated yet Sep 06, 2009
U don't want to live forever? How about having the option to live as long as you want*?
I want to live until science can give me a brain similar to kurzweil's. I'll decide then. Or, as ICP says, 'I ain't gonna die, until I GET MY SHIT!' And dat includes jus' a lil sip of Faygo-

as to the gentleman with the digestive problems above, might this be a predeliction in a species of the ingrained compulsion to diversify, the impetus toward speciation?
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2009
I highly doubt that humanity is moving toward speciation. It is more like humanity is an evolutionary dead-end. We are more making it so when we extend the lifespan of the genetically impaired and they go on and breed, passing along their genetic defects. If we do not discover a means to effect permanent genetic repair we are doomed as a species.

Of course, I suppose that does not matter much when we consider that we are trying to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere. If we do not double our levels of CO2, the Sun will evaporate the oceans in a billion years, anyway. So, either way, humanity is screwed unless we figure things out. :)
gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2009
Kurzweil- yeah if I had a brain like his I'd want to live forever. I WANT a brain like his. I feel cheated that I didn't get one near as good. Trouble is if the majority of people had brains like that, the world wouldn't work as we know it. Democracy wouldn't work. Capitalism wouldn't work.


You're right. The world wouldn't work as we know it. The average person today thinks that Democracy and Capitalism both are the ultimate answers to a both organised and functional nation. Like there's no next step up the ladder.

We all see obvious flaws with both, and still everybody I know takes it for granted that this is it, there can't be anything better. Well, so did already the ancient kings, Mayans, Chinese, Egyptians, Socialists and Communists, too.

Just like my school teacher had a serious problem when I wrote in an exam that "Jupiter is currently known" to have 12 moons. To her it was blasphemy and disrespect.

Not that I personally have any idea what there should be.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2009
After several millions of years abiding on this planet, one would think we humans would have more pressing matters to attend than "pain free meat".
ArtflDgr
3 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2009
A philosopher should be the last person to suggest we can objectively understand what a sentient creature experiences.


ah... they are not sentient...
which is the point... and why, its not as cruel as if you did it to a sentient being.

and before you argue, look up sentience and how to ascertain it, and which animals show the start of it.
Birthmark
5 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2009
I find it weird people oppose this so vehemently. First off plants may feel negative stimuli but they have no brain nor a nervous system as we do, therefore no consciousness to feel that pain in a way that would make it immoral. So that leads into my next point, the reason I feel better knowing the animals die pain free is because they feel pain with a mind and consciousness, as we do.

@Shaffer
If a soldier dies pain free do we not mourn?

Seriously you must be kidding me...There have been countless humans that haven't felt pain when they died (being crushed, explosions, or other instant deaths), that's not an issue whether or not we care about that person. A human loss whether it feels pain or not is a loss, I can't believe I have to even explain that haha!

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