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a surprising lack of logic

February 24, 2010

When I first began reading the recent New York Times article, Not Grass Fed, but at Least Pain Free, by Adam Shriver, I was a happy(ish) lady.[1] Shriver was honestly talking about serious business: Americans eat too much “meat” for their own health and non-human animals (who will become that “meat”) are tortured for the sake of producing it cheaply and quickly.  But Shriver lost me when his pro-animal, anti-torture stance brought him to the very strange conclusion that recent experiments of Frankensteinish proportions, which have found ways to genetically engineer the brains of some non-human animals so that their neurological pain receptors are removed, are the solution for how we treat “food” animals.

Shriver celebrates this technology as an advance for the animals, arguing it is wonderful since it can mitigate the animals’ suffering during slaughter. I disagree with him on this one. This “advance” does nothing to change how non-human animals are treated. Rather, it manipulates and objectifies them further, thereby making it easier to continue down paths of denigrating and harming non-human animals for the sake of human comfort and pleasure.

Shriver’s reasoning reflects a clear failure on the part of his own logic neurons on multiple occasions throughout this article.  Shriver (and presumably the scientists doing this research) recognize the horrific torture we cause “food” animals to suffer AS WELL AS the fact that eating these animals (and the quantities in which they are eaten) is the cornerstone of all of the current major health epidemics we face in the U.S. Given this, how does he justify spending so much money on research to modify and engineer animals’ neurons? Doesn’t it make more sense to EDUCATE people to change their diets? That would not only eliminate the whole torturing animals part of the equation, but it would also take care of the health aspects Shriver mentions. (Not to mention that ending factory farming–which adjusting brain neurons does not do– is the most important thing we can do for the environment at this time).

Shriver’s lack of logic is again demonstrated when he tells us that this neuron-eliminating technology was developed through animal testing. Shriver reports this as if it is an unimportant detail. If his argument is that animals should not suffer, then why does he unproblematically report on animal-based experiments to prove his point?  Medical experiments performed on animals include some of the most painful and horrific practices that humans inflict on non-human animals.

Even the title of this article, Not Grass Fed, but at Least Pain Free, is indicative of Shriver’s lack of understanding about these issues.  The title implies that there is a moral superiority to grass fed cows who are killed for their flesh. This is just not so.  These animals are still needlessly murdered for the taste preferences of necrovores. I am sure Shriver is assuming (erroneously) that grass fed also always means a free-roaming (or at least not factory farmed) cow. I understand that that scenario is not nearly as horrific as what a factory-farmed cow goes through, but it is still horrific for any cow to be needlessly slaughtered because someone wants (but certainly doesn’t need) to eat him/her.

[For speciesists who can’t clearly understand my argument, here is a similar scenario using people instead:

If you murder your neighbor (lets make your neighbor a “he”) for no reason but that murdering him brings you momentary pleasure you are amoral (and scary). If you imprison your neighbor and leave him malnourished and living in his own feces for 180 days before you murder him then, yes,  your neighbor suffered more, but you are still amoral and scary. Saying “Hey, I only murdered him when I COULD have imprisoned and tortured him before I murdered him” does not make you any less culpable for the murder.  You are still amoral. And scary.]

And  now, for the most illogical point in the article…

Shriver says:

“Given the similarity among all mammals’ neural systems, it is likely that scientists could genetically engineer pigs and cows in the same way.”

If Shriver can admit that there is a similarity among all mammals’ neural systems (meaning, our brains), why does that lead him to the conclusion that the cow’s brain and genetic code should be manipulated for human ends, just as the rats’ brains were? I would have hoped that that acknowledgment of similarity would have lead him to the conclusion that, much like humans, other mammals (and all animals) experience fear, pain, love, loss, connection, joy and a hundred other emotions that make them worthy of a life in which they do not exist purely for humans’ entertainment, science projects, taste and fashion.


[1] I have to add the “-ish” part because Shriver doesn’t tell the whole truth about  the number of animals used in scientific testing. Seeing as how our government does NOT classify  90% of all animals used in experiment as “animals” (this includes rodents [i.e. rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice, etc.],  birds and reptiles) there is no real count of how many animals are used in experiments.  Given that Shriver’s story later relies on animal tests done on rats (again, not considered “animals” by the federal government’s standards as outlined in the Animal Welfare Act), it is particularly problematic that he neglects to mention this point.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. rabbit permalink
    February 25, 2011 2:55 pm

    If only he put as much thought into finding ways to stop factory farming instead of finding ways to make it “acceptable”.

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