7 March 2018

Should We Genetically ‘Disenhance’ Animals on Factory Farms to Improve Their ‘Welfare’?

hens in a tree
UPC rescued battery-caged hens. Photo by Susan Rayfield


“Why We Should Genetically ‘Disenhance’ Animals Used in Factory Farms”

By Jonathan Latimer

"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." — University of Oxford student Jonathan Latimer. Read the defense of "disenhancement.”

UPC President Karen Davis posted the following comment to this article, along with several other readers’ comments countering the argument that genetically destroying an animal’s ability to experience feeling, in order to fit the animal into a human-contrived system of torture, constitutes an ethical solution to the “suffering” of these animals.

  • Karen Davis says:

March 7, 2018 at 12:02 pm

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 Identity 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.



Here is the link to Karen Davis’s article Chicken-Human Relationships: From Procrustean Genocide to Empathic Anthropomorphism published in Spring Journal, edited by Gay Bradshaw, and in Critical Theory and Animal Liberation, edited by John Sanbonmatsu under the title “Procrustean Solutions to Animal Identity and Welfare Problems.”

Hen fitted with lenses with eyes forced open to illustrate lenses
Hen fitted with lenses and eyes closed

These hens were fitted with red contact lenses for a student project in the poultry unit at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. There is no cruelty that animal agriculture & research will not inflict on their victims and call it “welfare.” Red Contact Lenses for Chickens: A Benighted Concept