Neuroscientists have found that by damaging a laboratory rat’s anterior cingulate cortex, or by injecting the rat with morphine, they can likewise block its affective perception of pain. The rat reacts to a heated cage floor by withdrawing its paws, but it doesn’t bother avoiding the places in its cage where it has learned the floor is likely to be heated up.
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. Prof. Min Zhuo and his colleagues at the University of Toronto, for example, have bred mice lacking enzymes that operate in affective pain pathways. When these mice encounter a painful stimulus, they withdraw their paws normally, but they do not become hypersensitive to a subsequent painful stimulus, as ordinary mice do.
At least this is the conclusion of an NY Times Op-Ed column by Adam Shriver.
In the words of Liz Lemon, "What the what?"
Shriver suggests that we can use neuroscience technology to minimize or eliminate the pain felt by animals ultimately bred, raised and slaughtered in factory farms:
We have come so far from what original ranchers and farmers intended on how to rear cattle that when we call for a return to this open-space, grass-fed ways, we're looked at as naive. At the same time, I can't help but think these "pain-free" injections will simply be done just to make the people who buy conventional meat feel better about themselves without having to change any of their consumption patterns. Why should we, as consumers, accept the inhumane fates of these animals when we have ways of preventing it? (i.e. cut back on meat consumption, become vegetarian/vegan OR buy meat from small family farms)
"Frankenfood" is often the term associated with genetically modified products on the marketplace. And, though I'm a firm believer that the combined actions of several individuals can make a difference in consumer culture, I'm not ignorant to the immense power welded by the few agribusiness corporations who monopolize the meat industry. Animals raised for conventional purposes are already injected with too many antibiotics, used to counteract the man-made miscalculations.
I'm agree with Shriver that doing nothing at all isn't the solution. Conversely, adjusting, controlling and manipulating the internal chemical and genetic workings of animals doesn't seem like the most rational - or inexpensive - way to move toward an overall pain-free food system.