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Pain
February 25, 2014 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Do invertebrates feel pain? "Boiled alive and torn limb from limb – it's time we took seriously the question of whether animals like squid, octopus and lobsters suffer"
posted by dhruva (71 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obligatory relevant David Foster Wallace link - "Consider the Lobster"
posted by UncleBoomee at 9:53 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


She lifted the lobster clear of the table. It had about thirty seconds to live.

Well, thought Belacqua, it's a quick death, God help us all.

It is not.

posted by kewb at 10:03 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Obligatory relevant Eddie Murphy/SNL link - Larrry the Lobster.
posted by pappy at 10:14 AM on February 25


Causing other organisms pain for your own benefit is a feature common to all life, regardless of species. I'm not sure how knowing about it is going to make any difference.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:15 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Causing other organisms pain for your own benefit is a feature common to all life, regardless of species

plants
posted by Jpfed at 10:17 AM on February 25 [10 favorites]


It seems like you could argue from a Darwinian perspective that an animal that didn't feel pain would be unlikely to survive, that pretty much everything above a certain level of complexity feels pain so that the pain can be avoided.

Part of the issues seems more related to self-awareness. Does the creature tend to it's own body after the experience of pain?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:17 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Fascinating.

Possibly because I'm a rare consumer of seafood, I did not know about this thing of tearing off crab claws and throwing them back in the sea. How is this ever considered acceptable, pain or no.
posted by greenish at 10:17 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how knowing about it is going to make any difference.

Humans may be unique in that they can choose not to (directly) cause suffering in many cases. Knowing what does and does not cause suffering can help in that regard.
posted by Mooski at 10:18 AM on February 25 [20 favorites]


Causing other organisms pain for your own benefit is a feature common to all life, regardless of species

plants


Thorny ones, poisonous ones, etc.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:19 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


Thorny ones, poisonous ones, etc.

I didn't say "all plants". If even one plant doesn't cause pain for its own benefit, it is a sufficient refutation for the claim that such is a feature common to all life.
posted by Jpfed at 10:23 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Possibly because I'm a rare consumer of seafood, I did not know about this thing of tearing off crab claws and throwing them back in the sea. How is this ever considered acceptable, pain or no.
posted by greenish


They are talking about Stone Crabs in Florida, the claw grows back after it loses it, making it sustainable. And the claws are insanely delicious.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:26 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I have difficulty grasping the notion that if there is no self-awareness, or even an ostensible intellectual capability of awareness of anything beyond instinctual reaction, that pain is the one thing that suddenly shoots you up the evolutionary ladder and makes a previously completely unaware entity suddenly cognizant of what it is experiencing.

Boil me up another one.
posted by umberto at 10:27 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Stone Crabs in Florida

The new name of my band.
posted by mule98J at 10:30 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but I have difficulty grasping the notion that if there is no self-awareness, or even an ostensible intellectual capability of awareness of anything beyond instinctual reaction, that pain is the one thing that suddenly shoots you up the evolutionary ladder and makes a previously completely unaware entity suddenly cognizant of what it is experiencing.

Squids and octopi have a credible argument for awareness of not only self and others in their environment but also a sense of how other creatures are perceiving them and how they can change that perception to better survive, not to mention their relatively well-established use of tools.
posted by Copronymus at 10:32 AM on February 25 [16 favorites]


All the results in the experiments described in the article could still be explained by the view that it's not pain per se, but an adaptive reflexive response. It's hard to imagine any experiment that would be any better. This makes sense though, since the real issue seems to be whether invertebrates experience pain as a quale. But philosophers can't even come to a consensus on this in the case of humans! Or, rather, on how to distinguish human-experienced qualia from mere reflex action (see philosophical zombies). Maybe lobsters are just delicious zombies.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 10:33 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


Failure to recognize that other life-forms experience joy and sorrow is a peculiar aspect of man's egocentrism.
posted by No Robots at 10:37 AM on February 25 [16 favorites]


There's no scientific experiment that could tell you what the subjective experience of a squid is any more than one could tell you if everyone else is a figment of your imagination or not. I've always thought it reasonable to assume that consciousness exists on a scale, and that if you care about that sort of thing you have to arbitrarily draw a line dividing things on that scale that you feel comfortable eating from those that you don't. For me, squid and octopus exist right on that line, and recently I've been leaning toward not eating them.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:39 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


I don't eat most meat, but I've never been able to give up sea food. I just love it so much.

However, I recently stopped eating (delicious, delicious) cephalopods. They're just too smart and too awesome and I was feeling guilty every time I ate calamari.
posted by brundlefly at 10:43 AM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Avoid the bisque!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:49 AM on February 25


Plants not only attack animals that prey on them with toxins and thorns, they are also constantly at war with each other above and below ground for access to light and nutrients in soil. Hell, some trees try to start forest fires just to spread their own seeds. They may not be inflicting physical pain, but they are hurting each other.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:50 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I didn't say "all plants". If even one plant doesn't cause pain for its own benefit, it is a sufficient refutation for the claim that such is a feature common to all life.

Unfortunately for your argument, there is an interesting branch of botany focusing on what can loosely be called plant behaviour and communication. There are pretty wonderful experiments showing how plants do things like summon predators to attack other species encroaching on their space.

Even without these weird acts of plant war plants routinely deny each other the resources needed to live like light, water or nutrients.

The plant kingdom has only appeared peaceful to us because we lacked understanding of what was actually happening. I doubt your innocent plant exists and the onus is on you to provide it to win your argument.
posted by srboisvert at 10:52 AM on February 25 [18 favorites]


With nerves why wouldn't they feel pain?
posted by stormpooper at 10:54 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Failure to recognize that other life-forms experience joy and sorrow is a peculiar aspect of man's egocentrism.

I'd have put the valuing of joy and sorrow, two human emotions and concepts, above other as the egocentrism. That we need things to be like us to be concerned about them is the egocentrism not that we fail to see that other things are like us.
posted by srboisvert at 10:56 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure how knowing about it is going to make any difference.

Give them a quick death instead of a prolonged agonizing one. That's what we do with the land animals that we eat.
posted by Foosnark at 10:58 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


Failure to recognize that other life-forms experience joy and sorrow is a peculiar aspect of man's egocentricm.

Doesn't seem that peculiar since every species seems to indulge in it. Sometimes to far crueler degree.
posted by umberto at 11:00 AM on February 25


srboisvert: I want to read those studies! Do you have any links handy?
posted by aniola at 11:03 AM on February 25


With nerves why wouldn't they feel pain?

Well, the short science answer is because nerves doesn't necessarily equal pain. Pain is one specific type of unpleasantness that has a very specific neurological process. Your nerves are responsible for lots of sensations, and they are all pretty much distinct - taste, itch, pressure, etc.

As aforementioned, because pain is actually a subjective thing, it's also philosophically impossible to know whether or not they feel pain, because solipsism and my blue vs your blue etc etc.

My deal is that I think it's wrong-headed to hang the entire ethics of eating animals on whether or not they feel pain. Pain should not be the metric. We should assume they do feel pain and come to terms with being okay eating them despite the fact. That said, it probably doesn't make sense to torture them either, with the boil them alive business.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:03 AM on February 25


Given that it was once thought that newborn babies don't feel pain I'm not inclined to believe any ideas about anything not feeling pain. I don't think anyone has ever screwed something up by over-estimating how much pain something was feeling.
posted by bleep at 11:09 AM on February 25 [8 favorites]


Sorry to digress, but this sentence makes me cringe. It should read either:

"it's time we took seriously the question of whether animals like squid, octopus and lobster suffer" (all singular)

OR

"it's time we took seriously the question of whether animals like squid, octopi and lobsters suffer" (all plural)

Also acceptable plural of octopus is octopuses and octopodes. But the way it is written just sounds wrong
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:11 AM on February 25


I have an unsupported theory that humans are successful as a species precisely because we suffer acutely. First came the suffering and thereafter arose the mental tools, if you will, to avoid suffering.

As to whether squid and octopi suffer I think the definition is important - will they learn to avoid a situation where they previously experienced an aversive nervous response? By this metric I think the answer is clearly "yes".

Would they eat you if they could? Again, yes.

My cat seems to adore me but should I die she will start nibbling before her bowl is empty [and good for her, why waste good meat?]

/it's too damn early in the day for this discussion
posted by vapidave at 11:13 AM on February 25


Neurologically, nociception developed evolutionary a long, long time ago. Do these entities feel pain? It's very likely - almost certain. The real question is: how do they experience pain? This is the point where neurology gets into the weeds of what consciousness is and is not. Just because an animal experiences pain (or emotions for that matter) does not mean that they experience them in the same way, with the same awareness as humans. As pointed out above, pain is just part of a protectionary feedback loop. But humans have the ability to examine, manipulate and dwell on the pain - we have metacognitive abilities related to it. Animals are reactionary in their responses to pain. So does this mean we shouldn't worry about it - on the contrary - when cephlapods evolve into their next higher form, they will remember. Their collective consciousness will show no mercy to humans. I plan to be in Arizona at that point, because they don't like it there.
posted by Brent Parker at 11:23 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


All animals certainly cause, and likely feel, pain. There are only a handful that seem to do so gratituiously.

The same basic questions being asked here regarding do xyz feel pain has been asked of all non human language animals. And it often is couched in the same terms... ''Well we can't know for sure it isn't some automatic response blah blah blah... So we shouldn't worry about it, hack away.'' From the seriouls disabled humans, pre language humans to mamals and now invertbrates I guess.

Why do we start with the assumption of no pain unless proved instead of yes pain unless proved otherwise? Are we that eager to absolve ourselves of what we do?
posted by edgeways at 11:24 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


Are we that eager to absolve ourselves of what we do?

Yes. The same cognitive ability that allows humans to avoid causing suffering also provides endless rationalizations for causing it anyway.
posted by Mooski at 11:26 AM on February 25 [14 favorites]


Failure to recognize that other life-forms experience joy and sorrow is a peculiar aspect of man's egocentricm.

You seem to have things backwards. I don't think there are any other species that sit around and ponder another's emotional states, and yet here we selfish humans are.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:31 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


The octopus in Old Boy sure didn't act like it was enjoying itself.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:37 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I've been doing this whole media thing long enough to know that when an article starts with:

Do invertebrates feel pain? Boiled alive and torn limb from limb...

There's going to be a strong indication for "Yes."
posted by Debaser626 at 11:40 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


Do invertebrates feel pain?

Until we can prove otherwise we should assume they do.

if there is no self-awareness

Ditto.
posted by DarkForest at 11:46 AM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I agree the distinction between having pain and feeling pain (or however you want to put it) is key. I can program my lego robot to have a pain reaction (when a servo is bent beyond some number of degrees in a direction that might eventually break it) -- squawk, move in a direction opposite the "pained" limb, even poke that limb afterwards in an effort to pull it back into shape -- without remotely thinking that those lines of C are generating actual suffering. I could even do the whole thing (much more laboriously and slowly) using simulated neural nets, and still not think what was going on was anything like pain.

On the other hand, though I know I feel pain, I don't think metacognition or deep self-awareness is necessary for that: my mind can be pretty clear of all other thoughts -- even memories or random associations, let alone the fancier stuff -- and I'm still clearly feeling the pain. So there's something going on even when my conscious mind is pretty much empty of everything but the pain that still goes far beyond what I could program my robot in an afternoon. What is it?

On the other hand, I do agree that, in the meantime, the precautionary principle makes the most sense. The error of assuming pain and that being untrue is that we don't eat some tasty stuff; the error of assuming nonpain and that being untrue is that we have tortured to death thousands of suffering beings. In the absence of 99.999% certainty of the non-pain hypothesis, the morally safe behavior is pretty clear.
posted by chortly at 11:55 AM on February 25 [2 favorites]


But humans have the ability to examine, manipulate and dwell on the pain - we have metacognitive abilities related to it. -- This seems like the least distressful part of pain, certainly in my experience. It's the actual hurting that really hurts and makes pain such a bad thing..

Also, forgive me, but

Metafilter: solipsism and my blue vs your blue etc etc.
posted by newmoistness at 11:56 AM on February 25 [3 favorites]


newmoistness: "This seems like the least distressful part of pain, certainly in my experience. It's the actual hurting that really hurts and makes pain such a bad thing.."

I don't think so. Aside from physical damage there is nothing but a signal. It's the interpretation of a signal that makes it a bad/good/neutral thing. The "actual hurting" doesn't start until your consciousness/brain interprets the signal. The signal may be mapped back correctly to the body part where the signal originated and you feel hurt there but really it's your brain/consciousness experiencing the hurt, not the body part. This is why even though most pain is experienced as unpleasant some pain can be experienced as the opposite (depending on the circumstances of course) even though it's the same exact type of signal. A slight pin prick generating a small amount of pain can be perceived as rather unpleasant while a kinky slap generating a greater amount of pain can be perceived as pleasant by the exact same person. It's not the signal, it's the processing of the signal.

Some meditative aspect of martial arts training can lead you towards increasing the ability to control your brain's/consciousness' interpretation of pain. You still receive the signal itself but you interpret it differently and experience less of "feeling hurt".

I agree with whoever said they though consciousness exists on a scale. And while I absolutely love eating octopus I've begun to increasingly cut back for that reason. I still can't resist the fried baby octopus at Honda-ya here in LA though. I'm trying to tell myself that they're too little to have developed much of a consciousness. But I'm sure I'll be proven wrong on this eventually.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:26 PM on February 25


Boil me up another one.

But THEN a giant appendage reaches down through the roof of your house, really a human fishtank, picks you up, and carries you over and drops you screaming into a vat of boiling water! And then the camera pans up to reveal you were dropped by A GIANT LOBSTER! Because suddenly your life is revealed to be a story in EC comics!
posted by JHarris at 12:33 PM on February 25 [6 favorites]


Give them a quick death instead of a prolonged agonizing one.

Trickier than you might think. Let me tell you about the last time I cooked crab.

There's a technique for humane-killing a lobster by cutting its brain in half. It turns out it doesn't work on Dungeness crab, or if it does I apparently don't have a clear enough idea of where the brain is. So there was a crab with multiple head wounds clattering about in my sink and I was wondering if I should try to stab it some more o god what am i doing but it was armored and not exactly holding still so I just grabbed its flailing body as best I could and threw it in the pot. I could hear it banging its claws on the inside of the pot for a surprisingly long time as I listened in horror, wanting it to die so that I wouldn't have to hear the ticky-tak condemnation.

I am the worst ethicist.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:49 PM on February 25 [8 favorites]


"The "actual hurting" doesn't start until your consciousness/brain interprets the signal."

I don't think you have any proof that cells outside the brain can't actually feel real pain. Whether they can communicate that to conscious awareness and alter conscious awareness/behavior/response is not proof of whether they can feel it.
posted by xarnop at 1:19 PM on February 25


Failure to recognize that other life-forms experience joy and sorrow is a peculiar aspect of man's egocentrism.

Nature's default when it comes to food seems to be "who gives a shit about this life form's joy or sorrow", so I can't say man in practice is that much worse. Other than the whole overconsumption thing.
posted by Hoopo at 1:24 PM on February 25


Trickier than you might think.

Indeed. I think part of the problem is trying to determine the consciousness of an animal with a *much* more decentralized nervous system than your basic mammal. An octopus has two thirds of its neurons in its arms, for example.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:26 PM on February 25


xarnop: "I don't think you have any proof that cells outside the brain can't actually feel real pain."

I'm starting to think this is really a problem of definitions and semantics.

Personally I'm arguing from a view point where I pose that the term "consciousness" most likely attempts to describe states and/or state changes emerging from the activity of more or less complex nervous systems similar to our own brains and other known animal brains (and, on preview, more exotic versions thereof involving less common distribution of the network throughout the body) with a degree of self awareness that is variable and related to the complexity and structure of that system. To "feel" pain suggests to me some form of conscious experience and/or interpretation of signals received by the network that forms/frames/"is" the experiencing consciousness.

Given these definitions I would then argue that individual cells most likely do not "feel" pain in this sense since they do not appear to have any internal features resembling active networks of neurons with consciousness like properties but, at most, appear to be building blocks of such networks themselves. Cells may possibly undergo physical and functional changes as a result of both the actual event that triggered the signal or by being exposed to the signal itself but that, to me, doesn't constitute the conscious experience of "feeling" pain. I think it takes more than a single cell to form a network capable of giving rise to states resembling consciousness capable of registering experiences.

Now if part of that network happens to be near the site of the origin of a signal then that doesn't really change anything. There is still a difference between the origination of a signal and its perception/interpretation.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:51 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


I am reassured that an alien being of far more complexity and higher intellect would consider my perception of pain as trivial when I am boiled alive before being served on a tray at an alien cocktail party.

i think i would go great with a nice beaujolais
posted by Random Person at 2:06 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


Fuck this shit. I can't believe stuff like this is even being debated.

PAIN??? What is Pain??

Beings want to continue to be.

Beings will avoid situations harmful to their personhood and seek out that which supports their existence.

Everything else is just humans trying not to feel bad about the fact that we're giant salivating hypocrites.

We can't face the fact that we prioritize breaded calamari with lemon juice and garlic mayo dip over the right of the being to continue to be.

Now excuse me while I take my huffy self over to Red Lobster!

They have great... uh... biscuits....
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:12 PM on February 25 [4 favorites]


All the results in the experiments described in the article could still be explained by the view that it's not pain per se, but an adaptive reflexive response.

Wasn't this exact argument used to justify live vivisection on dogs and cats in the 16th century? (That their reactions were only reflexes, not actual pain.)

Even if you want to eat seafood, surely there's got to be a better way to kill it - and that you should use to kill it - to avoid unnecessary pain? (Something that should be a factor in all animal slaughter). If you wouldn't argue for killing a mammal by throwing it live into a boiling pot for a slightly better taste, then it seems hard to argue for it for another animal.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:12 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


the view that it's not pain per se, but an adaptive reflexive response

What is pain? Everything humans do, viewed from the outside, has a biological explanation. The only reason we think anything more is there is because we're on the inside and can see for ourselves. Beyond a certain point, we cannot take the suffering of animals completely objectively; we have to observe similarities between their behavior and our own, and generalize from there.
posted by JHarris at 2:37 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


> "We should assume they do feel pain and come to terms with being okay eating them despite the fact."

Or, alternately, come to terms with *not* being OK with eating them, because of the fact.

Just saying, there is more than one possible outcome there.
posted by kyrademon at 2:37 PM on February 25 [4 favorites]


"I think it takes more than a single cell to form a network capable of giving rise to states resembling consciousness capable of registering experiences."

You think this, I'm just saying, this is just your thought. It's much easier to think cells can't feel, but I think it possible and even likely that cells do feel and the tissue and organ systems they create are expressions of that.
posted by xarnop at 3:48 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


A huge problem with conversations like this is there are multiple meanings for words like:

feel
think
experience
awareness
consciousness

so when having a conversation with these words in relation to neurological phenomenon it is best that you clearly define them or not use them. You'll notice that most of the comments in this thread are, in large part, people clarifying their personal semantic meanings of these ambiguous words to back up their point. This leads to all kinds of talking in circles.
posted by Brent Parker at 4:00 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

- Henry Beston, The Outermost House
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 4:44 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


So. On the one hand, animals (human and nonhuman animals, vertebrate and invertebrate animals) are for the most part totally vicious fucks, sustaining themselves through killing other forms of life absolutely indiscriminately. Moreover (as discussed above), even plants secure their livelihoods through committing vile acts involving total contempt for the value of the lives of others.

But on the other hand, we are, or at least appear to be, way more powerful than any plant or nonhuman animal.

I suppose it's a sign of lazy thinking that I get my moral sense out of comic books, but nevertheless I can't shake the idea that with our great power there does actually come great responsibility — that we as remarkably powerful animals simply aren't allowed to play the "well everything else on this planet does it, so we might as well do it too" game.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:54 PM on February 25 [4 favorites]


It's frankly a little weird to me that "animals do it" tends to get trotted out as an argument in discussions of the ethics of eating. Humans don't really apply that standard to any other ethical question I can think of. Animals kill, they rape, they devour their own young, and very, very few make the claim that these things are therefore ethical human activities. In fact, there's a long established system of thought as to why such things are not immoral for animals, while they are immoral for humans -- for example, the concept that lack of an ability to comprehend the consequences of one's actions means lack of responsibility for them, the same reason we have things like the insanity defense.

I get that there's a kind of simple "tit for tat" appeal to the idea when it comes to eating animals specifically, but "they would eat me/each other, so I can eat them" is pretty shaky reasoning on a number of counts. For one thing, the vast majority of the animals humans eat are herbivores. The cow would not actually devour you given the opportunity. But even if that weren't the case, it seems like a pretty weak ethical stance. Is it within your rights to break into the house of a thief? To torture a torturer in your basement?

And even if you take the unusual stance that, yes, it is, bear in mind that's not quite the right analogy ... it's more like thinking it's all right to murder a small child or delusional person who killed someone without really understanding the consequences of their actions. And then, of course, extending that to other small children or delusional people who never kill anybody, but are considered part of the group by association.

Anyway, I think it's a strange basis for an ethical system.
posted by kyrademon at 6:49 PM on February 25 [4 favorites]


Ahhhhh... we have such a high opinion of ourselves.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness proclaims that "humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates".

http://youtu.be/W9QIOj3IYuk
posted by chance at 7:42 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


A NOTE ON DEALING WITH LIVE LOBSTERS

If you object to steaming or splitting a live lobster, it may be killed by plunging the point of a knife into the head between the eyes, or severing the spinal cord by making a small incision in the back of the shell at the juncture of the chest and the tail.


Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking
posted by cacofonie at 8:01 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


My somewhat related askme yesterday.
posted by spbmp at 9:40 PM on February 25


Ahhhhh... we have such a high opinion of ourselves.

We might, but that's not why we can have problems with killing animals with needless cruelty.

We do so because we can see, we do know of cause and effect, not just in the short term but longer terms as well. And knowledge of that, and how often we act badly despite it, rather tends to lower one's opinion of humanity, not raise it.
posted by JHarris at 10:12 PM on February 25


The error of assuming pain and that being untrue is that we don't eat some tasty stuff; 

and have different animal welfare laws outlawing things like fly spray and antibiotics depending on where you draw the line. Which many would argue is a good thing  but regardless, there's definitely more at stake here than dinner.
posted by shelleycat at 11:10 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


how about we either admit we are no more merciful than other forms of life, or start acting like we are? At least then we will be taking responsibility for the question and the answer, rather than using science to try and prove that animals don't mind being killed.
posted by davejay at 11:19 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


The other thing to consider here is the difference between pain and suffering. A life form without a biological system of pain to deal with injury etc. isn't necessarily free from some form of suffering.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 12:33 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


As fascinating as this article is (and thanks for posting it!) I have difficulty believing that the average person is going to give a thought to the lobster on their plate when they seem to care nothing for the suffering of the steak which is often beside it, even though cows share much more of our biology and this suffering is obvious.

More's the pity. We have a long way to go.
posted by Feyala at 1:59 AM on February 26


Animals also lick their own assholes, are we going to start doing that too?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:50 AM on February 26


If you object to steaming or splitting a live lobster, it may be killed by plunging the point of a knife into the head between the eyes, or severing the spinal cord by making a small incision in the back of the shell at the juncture of the chest and the tail.

Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking


What spinal cord? Failure to appeal to the proper authority.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:29 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


srboisvert: I want to read those studies! Do you have any links handy?

"Demons in Eden - The Paradox of Plant Diversity" by Johnathan Silvertown (2005), University of Chicago Press, ISBN: 0-226-75771-4(cloth), QK46.5.

It has a pretty extensive reference section.
posted by srboisvert at 10:43 AM on February 26


“Don’t kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he’d eat you and everyone you care about!” -Troy McClure (The Simpsons)
posted by lordaych at 2:15 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


St. Peepsburg, bad example. We find it hard to lick our own assholes but many of us lick other human assholes. I haven't tried it yet. Ultimately this is all about how we define "humane" and yeah, "justifying human behavior based on other animal behavior when we possess the capability to extinguish most life on earth if the wrong jackass has a bad day" is stoopit
posted by lordaych at 2:17 PM on February 26


In other words, if "humane" doesn't imply a higher standard let's get down to just practicing Lex Talionis already. The one hundredth percenters have a head start.
posted by lordaych at 2:21 PM on February 26


New research on pain "A team of Bio-X researchers at Stanford has developed mice whose sensitivity to pain can be dialed up or down by shining light on their paws. The research could help scientists understand and eventually treat chronic pain in humans."
posted by dhruva at 10:43 AM on February 28


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