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Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Why We Should Genetically ‘Disenhance’ Animals Used in Factory Farms

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This essay was the winner in the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics Undergraduate Category

Written by University of Oxford student Jonathan Latimer

 I will defend the process of genetic ‘disenhancement’ of animals used for factory farming. I suggest that disenhancement will significantly increase the quality of life for animals in factory farms, and that this benefit is robust against objections that disenhancement is harmful to animals and that it fails to address the immorality of factory farming. Contra to a previous submission, I hope to recast disenhancement as something which ought to be seriously considered on behalf of animals in factory farms.

Currently, the factory farming of livestock animals for human consumption causes a great amount of suffering in those animals. It is widely acknowledged that the conditions many animals face in factory farms are abhorrent. Furthermore, demand for factory-farmed meat is increasing worldwide as developing economies grow more affluent. This will lead to more animals suffering in factory farms in the future. One potential solution to this problem is the ‘disenhancement’ of livestock animals. Disenhancement is a genetic modification that removes an animal’s capacity to feel pain. Scientists hope to be able to do this without inflicting any pain at all. So, disenhancement promises to reduce suffering in factory-farmed animals by removing their capacity to feel pain caused by their terrible environment.

However, this solution is not favoured by all. Objections to disenhancement claim that this process is bad for animals and forms part of a morally objectionable institution.  These claims are supported by the following arguments:

  1. Disability is intrinsically bad; disenhancement causes disability for animals; therefore disenhancement is bad.
  2. Factory farming is an immoral process independently of the pain it causes; disenhancement does not change the process of factory farming; therefore disenhancement is not a solution to the immorality of factory farming.
  3. Furthermore, disenhancing animals may support or benefit the factory farming industry economically. We should be encouraging the decline of factory farming; therefore we should not disenhance factory farm animals.

For this essay, I am going to assume that factory farming is highly likely to continue in the short term future. As such, my discussion will focus on animals currently in factory farms and those likely to be born into them in the future. This may give the impression that I approve of factory-farming disenhanced animals as a long term goal or the best possible outcome, but I reject this, as I will discuss later on.

Argument 1 claims that disability is intrinsically bad, which seems prima facie intuitive. For example, we live in a society that legally discriminates between disabled and non-disabled people, and provides extra benefits to disabled people in recognition of their status. Whilst this disjunctive conception of disability is useful for societal institutions, it isn’t always appropriate to consider specific disabilities as intrinsic harms across all contexts. For instance, we consider a lack of eyesight to be a disability. But this consideration is contingent on actual circumstances; if the human eye had evolved to cause intolerable pain upon contact with light, then we would not consider blindness a disability, but perhaps a benefit. As such, it does not follow that someone has necessarily been harmed by their having what we would typically call a disability, so specific disabilities are not intrinsic harms. We must consider disabilities always within their circumstances, which in this case is a factory farm. In this context, inability to feel pain may be very good for animals, and it shouldn’t be considered an intrinsic harm because we would otherwise call it a disability. This line of argument runs parallel to claims that disability should be understood as a mismatch between organism and environment, rather than an inherent defect with the organism.

Another argument as to why disability is intrinsically bad is that disability limits the capacities of the animal, and it is always preferable to have capabilities than to not have them. In the case of disenhancement, the limitation is of the animal’s ability to perceive its environment via tactile sensations. We might think that access to diverse channels of perception is a prima facie good thing, it affords variety to experience and endows one with more options of how to pay attention to the world. But in factory farms, where animals are constrained in pens, the animal has little control over the input of experience. The utility of possessing greater varieties of perception is wasted when the external environment is little changing and also pain inducing. Many animals are kept in battery cages for most of their lives, and experience significant pain from being cramped in the same space for too long. Disenhancement would remove this pain, allowing at least for idleness without physical suffering. In the wild, pain has the function of discouraging dangerous behaviour by causing intolerable sensations for brief periods of time. In the unchanging and predator-less environment of the factory farm, this function is useless and merely adds to suffering. The ability of tactile sensation enables the varieties of experience that are doubtlessly the least desirable in the life of a factory farm animal. It would on balance improve the life of the animal if it’s very worst experiences were removed, especially given the prevalence of such painful experience, even if doing so limited the capacity of the animal to perceive the environment in certain ways.

Unintuitive consequences do not follow from ceasing to view disability as intrinsic harm, despite the upshot of certain thought-experiments. For instance, if a couple screened their embryos and selected only those with disabilities for no necessary reason, we would be justified in thinking that they had committed a serious wrong. Similarly for disenhancement, because it is an unnecessary disability, it is wrong to create disenhanced animals when there is no need. Although intuitive to an extent, this analogy overlooks important considerations about circumstances. It would be wrong for parents to unnecessarily choose an embryo prone to disability because society remains especially difficult for disabled people. However, it is only wrong insofar as this remains the case. If society changed such that having a certain disability did not lead to harm, causing that disability would not be intrinsically bad. Because it is difficult to imagine how society might be different in such a way, it is easy to conclude that it would always be wrong to cause a disability. But factory farms present the opposite scenario, where the environment is such that disenhancement actually provides a significant benefit. Disenhancement should therefore be seriously considered. It might be responded that disenhancement is never acceptable because experiencing pain prevents you from harming yourself, so depriving factory farm animals of the ability to feel pain will result in more self-injuries. I will address this in my response to Argument 2.

Argument 2 states that even if disenhancement reduces suffering, it does not make factory-farming moral, so we still should not practise factory farming with disenhanced animals. To show that factory farming is bad independently of its causing pain to animals, a previous submission suggests that people with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA), despite being unable to feel pain, are still harmed by the injuries they incur frequently in daily life. For example, people with CIPA can accidentally bite off their own tongues or fail to notice if they have burned themselves. It is claimed that even though these injuries cause no pain, it is still bad that they happen to people with CIPA – we rightly feel bad for them maiming themselves. Similarly, we are justified in feeling bad for grossly mistreated animals even in the absence of pain.

Whilst I think it is right to point out the seeming inherent inhumanity of factory farm processes, the analogy between this and the injuries of those with CIPA is not consistent. We feel that people with CIPA suffer despite a lack of pain because we recognise that their injuries may still be life-threatening and that society can stigmatise bodily disfigurements. However, the highly restricted environment of a factory farm means that animals face less danger of significantly harming themselves than people with CIPA, and such animals are not subject to stigma. Even with the ability to feel pain, factory farm animals consistently injure themselves as a result of their inhospitable and dangerous living conditions. Factory farming with disenhancement is still deeply unsettling, but our intuitions about the inherent badness of bodily harm are misguided in a context where pain is a near constant feature of conscious experience and has little practical use. Disenhancement does not make factory farming morally sound, but its insufficiency in this regard is not a reason to avoid changing the system to eliminate pointless suffering in the short term.

Building on the claim of Argument 2 that factory farming is inherently immoral, Argument 3 suggests that the implementation of disenhancement would shield factory farming from criticism and strengthen its economic position, leading to the prolonging of an undesirable system. In opting for disenhancement we also tacitly endorse the institution of factory farming and the farmers and scientists who choose to uphold it. Instead, we should explicitly reject all forms of factory farming and push for alternatives.

This argument correctly sheds light on the exploitative and selfish motivations of factory farm owners and scientists in their employment, and it is unfortunate that disenhancement would reduce suffering but also may be in the interest of an exploitative system. However, this unfortunate aspect is no imperative against disenhancement. In reckoning with this issue, the unlikelihood of factory farm practises changing in the near future must be recognised. Vast amounts of people in developing countries are coming to be able to afford meat for the first time, and many will believe that it is their right to demand factory farm products just as those in the developed world have done for decades. In the developed world, vegetarians make up small proportions of total consumers, and cheap factory farmed products are appealing to many people who have to get by on lower incomes. Even if disenhancement leads to reduced moral criticism of factory farming, it is highly likely that demand will remain buoyant. In advocating for the disenhancement of factory farm animals, we recognise that factory farming is likely to continue, and hope that our arguments persuade those people who are determined to produce and consume factory farm products. In the meantime, we can voice opposition to factory farming practises in general and search for alternatives. We don’t need to conduct this search whilst animals suffer.

I have responded to the 3 arguments set out at the beginning as to why someone concerned for animal welfare should not accept disenhancement. Specific disabilities should not be considered as intrinsic harms, as the harm caused by a disability often results from the organism’s relation to the environment – which is contingent. The processes of factory farming are not made acceptable in and of themselves by disenhancement, but unnecessary suffering is reduced, and we can oppose these processes and work towards their replacement whilst insisting that farmers and scientists immediately reduce suffering with disenhancement.

With the negative case against disenhancement addressed, it can be emphasised that current animals are not harmed by the disenhancement of future animals, and future animals will endure less unnecessary pain. Whilst we may think that sentience is preferable to non-sentience, creating sentient beings with the knowledge that their sentience will largely consist of suffering is cruel. Disenhancement prevents us from creating sentient beings only to exploit them for our own needs, and it also does not stop us from creating sentient beings when they are able to have worthwhile lives, as pets or for conservation. People with concern for animal welfare can make a positive case that disenhancement alleviates the suffering of animals cruelly brought into an existence that guarantees significant pain, and that this does not contradict efforts to replace the system that generates this suffering.

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35 Comment on this post

  1. Aside from even considering this argument, it is astonishing how far we will go and how much human ingenuity we will invest to protect this industry, rather than to dismantle it, admitting that it represents an irreconcilable ethical dilemma.

    1. Regardless of ability to feel physical pain thay are still sentient beings. They will always suffer psychological and emotional pain, with their inherent need and right to freedom completely disregarded. The environmental devastation can’t be avoided either. Neither will the harm animal products cause the human body be eliminated.

      1. I agree. Even animals who don’t feel “ouch” pain will still experience loneliness, frustration, and desperation. It is because I know that pigs and dogs are capable of feeling these awful emotions that I don’t want them confined for life in tiny pens. I would vigorously support de-enhancement if there were any chance that it could also knock out the capacity to feel these emotions, and I do think we should allocate research money to this end, but I don’t think it will be easy. I would even consider eating meat if I knew it came from a Chalmers zombie (not literally a zombie version of Chalmers, although… hmm) . I’ve tried it and I love how it tastes, but I simply can’t justify buying it.

        Automation might make it more affordable for factory farms to purchase companion robots for their animals, and if they are well designed, they might help alleviate the negative emotions that confined animals certainly feel. Companion robots might also act as flexible supervisors that may allow animals to visit “playgrounds” built into the factory farms. I’m not saying this is the perfect solution, but we should not turn up our noses on incremental improvements, when the industry has such a large scale.

        With greater automation it may become possible to destroy the higher cognitive functions of animals and still keep them alive and growing. If anything this could increase the density of factory farms even further, since animals in a vegetative
        state, nourished by feeding tubes and minded by robots, could be packed very tightly indeed. Increased density would further reduce environmental impact of animal farming. I think that of all the near-term strategies, this one is the most promising.

        1. Many millions are being invested into Lab-grown meat technology. There is no kind way to turn sentient beings into commodities. Every kind of attempt, current or proposes. to breed animals, fowl, or fish as commodities is gruesome. There can be no quality of life for a confined, manipulated being. The rare, truly free-roamimg animals are bred by artificial insemination, a process of sexual molestation. And all end up meeting a most horrific way to die, by being slaughtered. We try to make ourselves feel better about doing something inherently cruel and always environmentally destructive, by assigning “humane” and “free range” labels. Continuously disregarding the truth about the inherent horrors of turning sentient beings into commodities. Time for humanity to evolve or surely we will continue to self destruct.

          1. “In Vitro Meat” is still use of animals. Even in the *best* case scenario regarding it, it’s still speciesist as it promotes the idea that animals are ours to use for mere palate pleasure, regardless of their inherent rights.

            The only way we are going to solve the problem of all the horrible rights abuses that exist in the world today is to 1. live Vegan and 2. educate others about why they also need to live Vegan.

            I create 2 great posts on the best way to do just that. If I could share the links here I would. Anyone reading this can friend me on Facebook at /squeezeplay

            1. Doesn’t the idea of “In Vitro Meat” mean we are respecting and recognizing the rights of animals outside of “mere palate pleasure”? Let’s assume that this meat is (1) more expensive [it probably won’t be in the long-run, but it is in the short-run]; (2) less tasty [this is true; it has, at the moment, a lack of fat that animals have, since it’s just protein]; (3) less appealing to some [there have been billions in advertising meant to convince us of the benefits of “natural” as well as a range of cultural and social influences that may make us believe lab-grown meat tastes worse].

              And do you have equal objections to a range of products that seek to imitate animal products/flesh openly, e.g., mock meats, faux leather, etc? All of those seem to propagate the idea that animal flesh/products are appealing while respecting the duty not to harm sentient beings.

              Wouldn’t that mean that we are saying, in light of these things, we respect the rights of animals to live and therefore are consuming them without causing them undue harm? Moreover, many cultures have consumed fellow humans in times not of famine. While this does have a range of health risks (most scarily, prions), if we moved to a culture that ate humans too, or if a cannibalistic culture adopted this, would you have the same objections?

              1. “we respect the rights of animals to live and therefore are consuming them without causing them undue harm”

                Using any individual member of any nonhuman species of animal at all causes them undue harm, since we have no survival-related necessity to use them and if they don’t exist they can’t be harmed. Refraining from causing undue harm necessitates the end to all breeding of all animals. That is the very mandate of Veganism.

                There is no qualitative difference to this argument when the species membership of the victim is replaced with any other species.

              2. “And do you have equal objections to a range of products that seek to imitate animal products/flesh openly, e.g., mock meats, faux leather, etc? All of those seem to propagate the idea that animal flesh/products are appealing”

                I have those objections to those products, yes, although that is not the reality of what they do primarily. In fact, because they are explicitly stated to not be “real” flesh and instead explicitly made form plants (whereas “In Vitro Meat” IS openly stated to be “real animal flesh”) they actually decrease the idea that animals are ours to use much more than any increase. My main problem with those products is a somewhat different one. They are problematic more in that they perpetuate the idea that living Vegan is somehow “giving up something good” when in fact, it’s the opposite. The only thing we give up by living Vegan is our participation in horrible rights abuses.

                That is why I refuse to volunteer the information that those products exist when exposing a non-Vegan to Vegan education. I only respond to their questions if they bring it up to me first.

              3. Scott: Excellent reply. I’ve also thought that the use of one’s own muscle to make lab meat is the only ethical way to eat meat. However, I doubt we could convince meat-eaters of this. I have mentioned lab-grown meat to meat eaters and they thought it sounded disgusting. i said no, slaughtering animals is disgusting. They understood that.

            2. I’m not sure that I follow the argument of vegans against clean-meat. I would much rather see people consume a speciesist product that causes mild academic frustration in some human minds than actual meat that causes physical and emotional pain to billions of intelligent animals raised for slaughter every year.

              1. Because there’s nothing academic about it. Speciesism is a function of the myth of human moral supremacy, which is the root cause of all intentional suffering inflicted on nonhumans by humans. Until we eliminate systemic speciesism, we will continue to increase suffering for animals, not decrease it.

  2. Poonam Dhup Juneja

    How presumptuous to think that factory farms here to stay!? Instead of finding solutions to do away with such evil establishments you are spewing intellectual garbage citing pseudo ethics. It does not seem like you have any concern for the animals themselves, but just about how to keep meat eating as the norm.

  3. 1. Nonhuman animals feel pain, pleasure, fear and other sensations. If they feel these sensations, then they have an interest in not being used merely as a resource for human pleasure, amusement, or convenience.

    2. There is no necessity for human animals to intentionally exploit nonhuman animals and cause them to suffer or die except our own enjoyment of the taste of their flesh/secretions and the convenience that animal exploitation affords us. Humans have no dietary need for flesh, dairy, eggs or honey.

    We have no need to use animals for clothing; we have no need to use them for entertainment; not only is it morally unjustifiable to use nonhumans in bio-medical research, but more humans suffer and/or die when we do so than if we didn’t use nonhumans at all.

    3. When something is unnecessary except for our trivial pleasure or convenience and that thing causes some being (for example, a nonhuman or human animal) to experience pain, fear or other kinds of suffering, then the harm being done to that being’s interest in their continued survival, freedoms, or not suffering is more important than our interest in our own mere pleasure, amusement or convenience.

    4. We claim to believe in “fairness/ethical/moral consistency” as a “moral good”, which means we believe in treating similar cases similarly when it comes to ethics/morality. In other words, if we believe it’s wrong to beat a human child for no good reason because they will suffer from a beating, then we should also believe that it’s wrong to beat a dog, cow, or chicken for no good reason because the nonhuman will also suffer.

    So, if we value moral consistency at all, which means we treat similar cases similarly, the minimum and only criteria needed to include nonhuman animals in our moral sphere (meaning we believe we should not harm them at all for no good reason) is that they feel pain, fear, and other sensations, since that is the minimum criteria we use to include humans in our moral sphere.

    5. Any characteristic that humans claim to have that we claim makes us morally superior to nonhuman animals cannot be factually proven to be a humans-only trait. Unless we can prove that we are morally superior to nonhuman animals, any argument that we claim justifies intentionally harming and exploiting nonhumans can also be used to justify humans intentionally exploiting other humans.

    This means that if we personally are in favor of violating nonhumans’ right to be safe from being enslaved, raped, tortured or killed by humans then we have no claim that we ourselves should be safe from having those same things done to us by other humans. Any argument we try to use to justify harm to nonhumans can also be used successfully by other humans to justify harming us in those same ways.

    6. If we accept premises 1 through 4, our ethical/moral obligation is to either a) cease any actions that intentionally cause unnecessary suffering and death to other beings such as nonhuman and human animals, in which case we can claim that our interests in avoiding the same harms should not be dismissed without due consideration, and we can point to the fact that this is because we are morally consistent, or b) admit that we are not morally consistent and that any human who wishes to dismiss our interests in avoiding the same harms without due consideration is also morally justified in doing so.

    Conclusion: If we don’t stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans to the best of our ability, all the things we consider atrocities and major problems in the world will never end. We also will not be able to consider ourselves truly morally consistent people. To stop intentionally exploiting nonhumans completely means Abolitionist Veganism.

  4. Suffering involves more than the ability to experience pain. Suffering refers to a wound, injury or trauma sustained by a sentient individual whether or not the individual experiences the wound, injury or trauma in the form of pain per se. For example, a brain concussion or a malignant tumor may not be experienced by the individual until the disease has progressed. Destroying a creature’s brain, nervous system and other mind and body parts necessarily inflicts suffering on that creature, in this case, to fit helpless animals into a procrustean system inimical to their wellbeing, happiness and natural expressiveness.

    To de-wing, de-brain and otherwise surgically or genetically amputate a part of an animal’s very self, to fit the animal victim into a maniacal human system, and then add insult to injury by justifying this act as being performed for the animal’s benefit, represents the nadir of understanding or respect for the victim of this enterprise – an enterprise that presumably the author of this article would not embrace if, instead of chickens or other nonhuman individuals, the proposed recipients of the perverted “welfare” wounding were human beings.

    On March 6, I submitted this comment, including a link to my article “Procrustean Solutions to Animal Identify and Welfare Problems.” Since my comment still “awaits moderation,” I assume the link is holding it up, so I am resubmitting my comment without the link. The article is posted on the United Poultry Concerns website under Thinking Like a Chicken. An issue I discuss is the survival of memory in the mentally mutilated creature of who he or she was before the mutilation was inflicted as in the case of phantom limb pain.

    1. Thank you Karen Davis, truly. I admire your ability to both think and write in a way that evaluates the situation accurately, incisively, while strongly expressing your point. I’m impressed and much obliged.

  5. I appreciated the thought of this article, but I think a slight linguistic clarification may be useful for the author. Disability scholars distinguish between “impairment” and “disability,” where disability results in a socially produced harm caused by the impairment. For instance, I am slightly color-blind (an impairment), where I have I can see blue but can’t tell between certain shades of it. This has caused me no harm in my everyday life other than being confused by a few pie charts, so it’s a very “minor” disability if it even is one.

    1. Hi Scott, I’m not very familiar with work on disability, so I really appreciate this tip. Thanks!

      OP, JL

  6. There is a rare genetic disorder in humans that makes it impossible for the individual afflicted to feel pain, and it is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of these unfortunate people. There are cases where the person has lost their vision, teeth, and even their life because of this disorder and you want to purposely cause this to happen in animals? The only way to end animal suffering on factory farms is to STOP eating them.

    1. Hi Lindsey,

      I’m a little confused by this point.

      Are you objecting to this because:

      (i) Genetic alterations that cause loss of pain MAY cause significant harm that stems from said alterations. Out of precaution (but not because it is wrong to genetically prevent pain), we should not do so unless we can guarantee safety.


      (ii) something else?

      I don’t think we need to look to genetic abnormalities to make this case. We can look to diabetes, a common ailment, that often causes numbness to the feet, and that, in and of itself, often leads to a bunch of complications because people can’t feel when something is wrong with their foot (e.g., shoes that are too tight). I am inclined to agree that pain has a definite purpose, and animals who can’t feel pain may be prone to other harms, like unknowingly thrashing into pens because they don’t receive the physiological discouragement that makes them stop, but this is a practical argument because of the risk of other harm. If there were adequate precautions (like say foam padding, regular veterinarian checkups, etc), this would assuage my concerns.

  7. Or we could just like…. eat plants. They have nutrition that we can live of and they aren’t sentient. It’s possible and many of us have been doing it for years and are thriving.

  8. That this man earned a prize for twisting the concepts of compassion and “welfare” in such bizarre shapes is shocking to me. It reminds me of 19th century eugenics societies and their arguments to justify their theories of white superiority. Even the title of the piece “Practical Ethics” is creepy—seems to imply there are morally compulsory ethical models and then, for the sake of profit and utility and “modern efficiency” there is the “stripped down variety of ethics, named “Practical”
    Homo sapiens is always eager to cheat his own high minded theories for the sake of the almighty profit motive. This essay codifies such disgusting hypocrisy.

  9. From the OP “and it also does not stop us from creating sentient beings when they are able to have worthwhile lives, as pets or for conservation”

    Creating nonhuman sentient beings for ANY reason, AT ALL is immoral. Nonhuman beings who have not been created cannot suffer. Nonhuman beings who have been created are capable of suffering. Ergo, creating them at all is a violation of their rights, since you’ve created unnecessary suffering.

    “Conservation” does not invalidate this, since all destruction of wild habitats are because of human action. The onus is on us to stop destroying individuals of other species, not create more of them in order to allow ourselves to continue destroying their habitats unabated. It’s our moral obligation to not create more of them because they are not tools for our human interest in “conservation,” they are sentient beings who have the right not be be created to be capable of suffering for our interests.

    Moreover, if it’s wrong to create more sentient nonhumans to try to ameliorate our destruction of their habitats, then it’s sure as hell wrong to create more individuals who are capable of suffering for something as trivial as our amusement or pleasure in using them as “pets.”

  10. Cont.: This idea that animals are ours to use is the root of all the problems humans have in this world. It is the root cause of all systemic human rights violations as well as nonhuman rights violations. The idea that it’s our place as humans to decide if their lives are worthwhile or not is extremely arrogant and, quite frankly, disgusting.

    If you don’t understand why, then just simply ask yourself if we had a problem where billions of women were being raped each year, and we had a campaign to create women who were not capable of feeling pain who could then be raped instead of the “normal women”, would that be something you would support?

    Veganism is easy and wonderful, so it’s extremely nonsensical to jump through all these mental hoops trying to justify using animals “more nicely.” Just do the right thing and stop using them, period.

  11. A fair amount of people won’t vaccinate their children for fear of autism and a much greater number of them think GMO soy is toxic or something but I’m sure brain-dead GMO pig bacon would *really* take off.

  12. How could anyone think this is a viable alternative? The writer speaks of the “short term” but I genuinely can’t believe anyone could think the prospect of developing the technology, scientifc consensus, ethical and societal approval, not to mention the laws to implement the factory farming of “genetically disenhanced” nonhuman animals is in any way more viable in the short term than cultured meat or simply eating plants. Pretty outrageous article! Maybe there’s an ounce of merit to the idea, in theory, that it would reduce suffering. But its real-world application potential is none. This is far-fetched and pretty horrible.

  13. Marian Patience Harvey

    Genetically modifying other Animals, Sentient Beings, to facilitate their unnecessary exploitation by Man is unethical. Simply wrong. Consumption of Animals and their products is totally unnecessary for health and well being. There is absolutely no moral justification for this kind of manipulation which perpetuates a cruel system.

  14. Medicinal cannabis probably is enhabling chemical disenhancement (or dissociation) to achieve its’ supposed benefits.

  15. The ethical principles underlying this argument seem utilitarian. I disagree with those principles. If you agree with a Kantian ethics including non-human animals, as they also have reason and free will, then ethics demand we respect their autonomy. Hence, it is equally wrong to genetically disenhance non-human animals as it is to genetically disenhance humans for some perceived good purpose for others than those involved. It seems to me as simple as that.
    The solution of meat eating and respecting everyone’s autonomy does seem to me to be in vitro meat. Just do not take it from non-human animals, BUT FROM YOURSELF!! If it is produced in the lab, why not take cells from your own body to start from? That must be the ultimate nutrition, eating essentially yourself, and it can’t be immoral. And it is no less weird than it any other lab grown flesh.

    1. You’re 100% right that, as long as all parts of the process for growing your own tissue were not taken from others, including the growth serum, then it would be morally justifiable. However, it would not be healthy. The evidence that any animal flesh or secretions in our diet is not optimally healthy has been able to form a small mountain for some time. It’s now as big as Mount Everest.

      Veganism is about non-harm, and that includes harm to oneself. Time to do away with these old notions about animal flesh completely (human or otherwise). It’s time for a new paradigm. A Vegan paradigm.

  16. The article by Jonathan Latimer, “Why we should genetically ‘disenhance’ animals used in factory farms,” would seem to represent a reductio ad absurdum of animal welfarism, not to mention hedonistic utilitarianism. The author claims that the proposed “disenhancement” of factory farmed chickens would improve their quality of life. Yet he also acknowledges that it would do away with, or significantly diminish, the “animal’s ability to perceive its environment via tactile sensations.” The diminution or eliminating of the biological conditions for the possibility of pain, then, more or less coincides with the diminution or eliminating of the biological conditions for the possibility of pleasure. In what sense, then, would that improve the quality of life? And what could the author possibly mean by “life” when he speaks with a total disregard for the minds, souls, and dignity of the creatures whose welfare he’s supposedly championing? To propose so-called disenhancing creatures is like proposing lobotomies for all the inmates of Hitler’s camps on grounds that it would do away with their despair and grief–after, that is, the methods of torture used on them already eliminated what Arendt calls the moral person and the juridical person within. It’s similarly analogous to a doctor curing a patient’s headache by chopping off the patient’s head. That Oxford gave a prize for that essay is truly terrifying. The article is instructive, however, in that it shows clearly the dangers of welfarism which all too often risks undermining the goals of animal liberation. And it shows at the same time how impoverished hedonism is for attaining justice.

  17. I honestly hope the author wrote this in the spirit of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” If not, it’s a sad day, and even worse that an institution with Oxford’s reputation would dignify this essay with a prize.

  18. After reading this vile, demonic, and Orwellian manifesto, I feel like I need to be genetically modified so I can’t feel any more pain.

    Whoever voted for this horrific essay to be the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics winner seriously needs to be placed in a factory farm themselves, and de-beaked, slit open, and hung from their own entrails.

    Is this what humanity has come to?

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