Genome editing in livestock (GEL) could potentially be used to mitigate urgent global problems of infectious disease, antimicrobial resistance, global warming, and animal suffering while also increasing agricultural productivity. Despite its imminence and potentially transformative potential, there has been minimal ethical debate about GEL. This project will provide the first in-depth philosophical analysis of GEL, focussing on four questions on which such research is most urgently needed: (1) How far do ethical concerns raised in relation to conventional genetic engineering using previous techniques carry over to GEL? (2) Are the arguments in favour of GEL best understood in terms of cost-benefit analysis, an obligation to 'arm ourselves for the future' or an obligation to correct past complicity in unethical agricultural practices? (3) How should duties to animals be understood in the context of GEL, and what is the relative importance of welfare, respect, and avoidance of commodification? (4) Would application of GEL to improve human and animal welfare entail complicity in maintaining unethical agricultural practices and if so, how could this complicity be reduced or offset? I will then investigate how my findings bear on how GEL should be regulated, and on related areas of public policy.
In this talk, Prof. Peter Sandøe argues that, from an ethical viewpoint, gene editing is the best solution to produce hornless cattle. There are, however, regulatory hurdles. Presented at the workshop 'Gene Editing and Animal Welfare, 19 Nov. 2019, Oxford.