For their own good? The unseen harms of disenhancing farmed animals

In Cheryl Abbate & Christopher Bobier (eds.), New Omnivorism and Strict Veganism: Critical Perspectives. Routledge (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In recent years, some ethicists have defended that we should genetically engineer farmed animals to diminish or eliminate their capacity to experience negative affective states, a process known as disenhancement that would, according to these authors, result in a situation that is better than the status quo. While we agree with this overall assessment, we believe that it is a mistake to defend disenhancement as a good solution to farmed animals’ plight. This is because disenhancement entails some generally unseen harms that arise from the fact that negative affective states, despite feeling bad, support the access to a number of intrinsic goods, such as individuality, social relationships, meaning, and political participation. Though farmed animals currently have few opportunities to enjoy these goods, we argue that this is a reason to change the environment in which they are kept, not the animals. If we truly care about improving farmed animals’ lives, we should aim to enrich their environment, rather than impoverish their mental lives.

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Susana Monsó
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia

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