Friday, September 4, 2009

Would Sir like to meet tonight's dinner specials?

While dining at the restaurant at the end of the universe, a waiter asks the above question of Arther Dent (the last earth man in existence.. kinda). As my fellow fans of Douglas Adams' comedy SyFy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will recall the waiter was referring to the fact that in order to clinch the debate of the morality of eating other animals scientists had genetically engineered special cows who not only wanted to be eaten, but who were given voices in order that they be able to actually say so.

Which brings us to this stirringly dumbfounding article I came across during my morning coffee. The article is a quick read and poses the question - 'if we have the ability to remove the suffering of animals via genetic engineering do we not then have a moral obligation to do so?'

Cage raised chickens often have parts of their beaks removed to prevent them from pecking their neighbors to death, would not it be better if the chickens could be made not to feel the pain this undoubtedly causes? Isn't it better if the cow you're going to eat walks out to your table and amiably chats with you for a while about which parts of his flanks are getting the most tender?

My response is not the horror and salad-demanding outrage that Arther Dent felt, but more an eye-rolling Kif-like sigh. Genetically engineering something to want to be eaten solves no debate in the minds of vegetarians (or their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans [to rip a line off from Anthony Bourdaine]) because their objections are often moral and empathetic in nature, having more to do with a need to be moral demigods of the animal kingdom than actually harming animals.

The point I'm trying laboriously to get to is that changing an animal in order to have your way with it is all fine and good - selective breeding of crops and animals has been ongoing since the dawn of agriculture - but doing it in the name of morality and 'animal rights' makes about as much sense as tofu foie gras.

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