They Found a Cure for Pain

If only Mark Sandman had lived* to see the most recent advancements in neuroscience:

Prof. Zhou-Feng Chen and his colleagues here at Washington University have engineered mice so that they lack the gene for a peptide associated with the anterior cingulate gyrus. Like the animals given brain lesions, these mice are normally sensitive to heat and mechanical pain, but they do not avoid situations where they experience such pain.

Given the similarity among all mammals’ neural systems, it is likely that scientists could genetically engineer pigs and cows in the same way. Because the sensory dimension of the animals’ pain would be preserved, they would still be able to recognize and avoid, when possible, situations where they might be bruised or otherwise injured.

[Adam Shriver, “Not Grass-Fed, but at Least Pain-Free”, New York Times, 2/18/2010]

Jesus. Enough to make me want to ramp up my BS weekday flexitarianism into something more meaningful. But if factory farming is here to stay (it is), would ignoring this be any better than denying a pained animal opiates? Ugh. Not time to throw the drugs away quite yet, so here’s some Morphine for palliation:

Morphine, “Cure for Pain”

*Apparently, his heart attack may have been related to his being stabbed in the heart while working as a cabbie twenty years before his death. Who knew?

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2 Responses to They Found a Cure for Pain

  1. Thanks for the link, Dave, though I don’t think this sort of research holds as much promise for guilty-feeling meat eaters as something like this: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article6936352.ece

    Military applications, on the other hand…

    But why is it this that makes you want to ramp up your ethical eating? Is there some special dignity borne out of the experience of pain’s unpleasantness? Because it makes it easier for some to think of pigs and cows as growing meat and nothing more or because it actually makes pigs and cows into growing meat and nothing more?

    • David G says:

      Yeah, but it’s a more immediate possibility.

      It’s one thing to have dominion over animals, quite another to control their consciousness to ease our moral misgivings. I don’t think there’s a dignity in experiencing pain, but because an animal ceases to experience suffering doesn’t mean it isn’t. And I think this has real potential to obfuscate that distinction from those of us who benefit from cheap, plentiful meat.

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