An article in the current issue of Philosophy Now poses the question: would it be more ethical to eat pigs, for example, if they were genetically engineered to be less intelligent?
"Pigs are exceptionally intelligent animals. They’re able to solve odor quizzes, recognize themselves in mirrors, and even play rudimentary video games. ... Despite their intellectual powers, 110 million pigs are slaughtered for food every year in the US alone, the vast majority of them after short, miserable lives on factory farms. The abuses on these farms are well documented, and the conditions in which such pigs are placed are widely acknowledged to be deplorable and unethical. ... One’s moral reaction to this mistreatment of pigs is only intensified by recognising the pigs’ intelligence and self-awareness. This intensification stems from the assumption that the capacity of a creature to suffer is proportional to its level of intelligence, to the depth of its feelings, and the complexity of awareness. Killing a dolphin is more immoral than squashing a spider, even disregarding the fact that both species are not equally endangered, simply because the dolphin is a more conscious creature. ... Given all this, I want to raise a tricky question: Would it be more okay to slaughter and eat a pig if it were significantly less intelligent? Suppose that through genetic modification pigs were able to give birth to ‘pygs’ – animals identical to pigs in every way, except being much less bright. Wouldn’t eating a pyg be more ethical than eating a pig? Plants show a certain very limited level of intelligence, by stretching towards the sun and reacting to their leaves being plucked. If a pyg were to be created to have the level of intelligence of a plant, wouldn’t eating it be no more unethical than eating a salad?" philosophynow.org/issues/119/Eating_Stupid_Pigs
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