Ethics and the genetic engineering of food animals

Biotechnology applied to traditional foodanimals raises ethical issues in three distinctcategories. First are a series of issues that arise inthe transformation of pigs, sheep, cattle and otherdomesticated farm animals for purposes that deviatesubstantially from food production, including forxenotransplantation or production of pharmaceuticals.Ethical analysis of these issues must draw upon theresources of medical ethics; categorizing them asagricultural biotechnologies is misleading. The secondseries of issues relate to animal welfare. Althoughone can stipulate a number of different philosophicalfoundations for the ethical assessment of welfare,most either converge on Bernard Rollins principle ofwelfare conservation (Rollin, 1995), or devolve intodebates over the ethical significance of animaltelos or species integrity. The principle of welfareconservation prohibits disfunctional geneticengineering of food animals, but would permit alteringanimals biological functions, especially when (as inmaking animals less susceptable to pain or suffering)do so improves an individual animals well being.Objections to precisely this last form of geneticengineering stress telos or species integrity asconstraints on modification of animals, and thisrepresents the third class of ethical issues. Most whohave formulated such arguments have failed to developcoherent positions, but the notion of species being,derived from the 19th century German tradition,presents a promising way to analyze the basis forresisting the transformation of animal natures.
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