Washington University philosopher and vegetarian, Adam Shriver, in Neuroethics proposes that if society is unwilling to shift to a vegetarian diet then nonhuman animals should be genetically modified to fit our cognitive dissonance over eating them. Specifically, an argument is made that we could down a guilt-free slab of cow flesh if we just made sure the cow felt no pain. "NewScientist" recently published an article discussing the issue.
Pain is an integral aspect of human and nonhuman life. It is one way in which we relate and react to the world around us. But it is not the only way nor is it, in our view, the most important way.
Eliminating pain in farmed animals does not eliminate the horror of cutting a life short for a moment of gustatory pleasure. It does not address the rich, intricate social and emotional worlds of farmed animals. In fact, it further reduces them to simple, sensory beings who have no other moral worth than how much pain they feel.
These are two small examples of how farmed animals are more than just pain reflexes. To think that by removing their natural, physical experience of pain means they stop feeling joy, stop talking with their kin, stop forming relationships, stop bickering, stop wanting to live is the height of arrogance on our part. It would not excuse their slaughter. The reality still remains - we do not need their flesh, milk or eggs to survive. We just do not. Let's stop trying to make it easier on our conscience to kill these animals and start directing that into positive energy, into doing something good for them and us - choosing a plant-based diet.