The unnatural high-grain diets provided in feedlots cause severe gastric distress in many animals. And faulty or improperly used stun guns cause the painful deaths of thousands of cows and pigs a year.
A New York Times Op-ed column suggests one way to “solve” this problem -- genetically engineer livestock so that they suffer less.
Neuroscientists have found that by damaging a laboratory rat’s anterior cingulate cortex, they can block its affective perception of pain. Recently, scientists have learned to genetically engineer animals so that they lack certain proteins that are important to the operation of the anterior cingulate cortex.
So the animals will still be mutilated, diseased, and stewing in their own waste products, but at least they’ll be so brain-damaged that they won’t care.
And some would actually want us to believe that this is progress?
It is a sad testimony to the society we live in today that we’ve allowed corporations to turn family-farming methods into cost-saving, mass-production strategies, which can endanger public health and treat animals so cruelly.
Many, if not most, factory farms treat animals like production units, not living creatures. As a result, most are overcrowded (some are kept indoors their entire lives), suffer from hunger, thirst and illness, are subjected to painful procedures like tail docking, and sometimes are kept conscious or even skinned alive during the process of slaughtering.
The “solution” should not be genetic modification of the animals’ brains in order to allow these atrocious behaviors to continue.
The solution should be to stop trying to fool nature and instead abide by its laws. When you mimic the natural ecologies found in nature, the food that is grown by these natural laws will inherently be healthy and need not suffer the way many factory-farmed animals do today.
Mangling Animals’ Brains to Protect Agribusiness Profits
The New York Times Op-ed column points to the genetic manipulation of animals’ pain pathways as a noble and obvious choice.
“If we cannot avoid factory farms altogether, the least we can do is eliminate the unpleasantness of pain in the animals that must live and die on them,” the author writes.
While pointing out the problems -- that unnatural high-grain diets causing severe gastric distress in animals, veal calves confined to the point of painful bone and joint problems, and faulty stun guns causing painful deaths -- nowhere is it recommended to return to the natural grass diets of these animals, or offer them freedom to roam pasture instead of being confined to tiny pens.
Instead, commercial agribusiness giants would invest untold amounts of money to block the animals’ perceptions of pain. That way the factory farming industry can cram even more animals into the pens, and feed them just about anything, and it won’t matter. The animals will know no different.
Likewise, the meat from these poorly raised animals will also be passed off as high quality, much in the same way it is now. And as for the genetic engineering, the New York Times author brushes that off too.
“Knockout animals have specific proteins removed, rather than new ones inserted, so there’s no reason to think that their meat would pose more health risks for humans than ordinary meat does.”
Is that so?
To date, studies have shown serious repercussions from just about every form of genetic modification, and I have no reason to think this would be any different.
Choose Humane Food Sources and You’ll be Healthier
There is a growing movement underway that you may not have heard of. It’s called permaculture, and I believe it represents the future of healthy food. Michael Pollan, the New York Times author who wrote the book Omnivore's Dilemma, does a great job of explaining it in this video.
At its roots is a focus on the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water and habitat -- and how to use these relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems. Permaculture strives to mimic the natural laws of nature and, as I said earlier, food that is grown by these natural laws will inherently be healthy, both for you and the animals.
The food being produced by factory farms is not done with the laws of nature in mind. Instead, it’s the law of making a profit that is steering the ship.
Let me make it very clear that if you shop at the typical supermarket, you are supporting these mass-production factory farms -- virtually all animal products (eggs, milk, meat, dairy products) at supermarkets come from these sources.
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to find a humane and reliable source for your food -- sources that are growing food with the health of the environment and the animals as the driving forces. One approach is to go down to your local food coop, small farm or sustainable agriculture group in your area.
It may be slightly less convenient. You may need to plan your purchases in advance, and stock up for a week or two at a time. You may even need to spend a little more to get it. But the reward is that you will have access to food that is pure and healthy, and which does not cause a moral conflict in your heart.