As man edges closer to the technology that will end the aging process and render virtually immortal the first generation to enjoy it, questions of animal rights must be drawn into that prospect. If such technology eventually becomes cheaply available, why would farmers let their best dairy cows and egg-laying chickens die, and await the maturation of replacements in the hopes that they will match the productivity of the originals? The logical step would be to render those very farm animals immortal, so that they might keep giving of their commercially misdirected reproductive systems.

Cartoonish depictions of happy cows aside, imagine the fate of such an animal, slated to go through the daily routine of producing that others might take, not just for months or even years, but for centuries or millennia!! Bessie's milk-making enslavement has, to this point, been relieved at least by the prospect of old age, possibly a less strenuous retirement of sorts, and death. But the future opens the prospect of an eternity of cold hands or mechanical clamps taking a daily squeeze of poor Bessie's lengthy nipples. An even more horrific future can be envisioned for a cow raised for beef, if technology advances to the point where the beast can be partially butchered, but sustained in life and made to regrow the vivisected parts!!

Perhaps, given enough time and the right course of the genetic treatment that renders immortality, Bessie may even develop self-awareness and, we can only hope, a philosophical attitude about her place in the world. Now it may be that the same technological revolution that frees man from mortality would usher in milk-making technology, and even beef-growing technology, independent of the cow itself (and maybe the machine will be invented that can lay eggs as well). And it may be that even if Bessie's life could be maintained in perpetuity, some more advanced cow will displace her utility, and she'll be put down anyway.But until that prospect more concretely materializes, let us strive to be humane in any efforts to bestow immortality on livestock -- if only lest they ever reach a point in their genetic modification where they are able to turn the tables on us, and exact a bloody revenge!!


As a postscript, a reader asks: "Better to raise several million cows to live and die in commercial farms, or one in perpetuity?" Interesting point, but I don't know that it would work exactly that way. Likely we would be talking about keeping a million cows alive in perpetuity instead of several million living and dying the natural way. If we're talking about beef cows instead of milk cows, and the technology exists to cut it up piecemeal and grow those pieces back, I'd say probably better in the karmic whole to have ten cows die quickly once than to have one cow endure ten long experiences of, basically, torture. But that's a matter of opinion and subject to valid different views.

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