I know it sounds weird, but stay with me.
Caveat: 0sd pro animal welfare omnivore copium incoming
Here's where the case for shrimp welfare breaks down:
> Lack of environmental enrichment: This can reduce shrimp survival and may affect their stress and behaviour.
Wow! I'm going to send this right now to my suicidally depressed schizo internet friend I diagnosed with "Lack of environmental enrichment". They should just go outside and touch grass, get some of that enriching stimulation. They don't even have enough executive capacity to apply for the resources they need, and I know are available. This isn't the first friend in my life like this btw. Maybe someone should do something about it.
> Poor transport and handling practices: This can cause physical injury and stress in shrimp.
Guess how people with depression feel about commutes, then juxtapose this with the broad level return-to-office reaction to the work-from-home disruption.
> Inadequate nutrition: This can lead to non-infectious disease and abnormal behaviour in shrimp.
I need to remind the aforementioned friend to eat sometimes; they live off of pizza rolls and Uber.
This diatribe isn't about asking for help or some such. The point is, why do the shrimps deserve more resources than my friend? That is where the "consequentialist" moral math comes in, and something more insidious.
It's the god complex involved.
My accusation is: shrimp welfarists care about people, I'm not suggesting they don't. But they don't care for fuzzy complications like the politics of welfare, the last-mile issues of distribution, the legibility-complexity tradeoffs that lead to people who fall through the cracks. They are scientists par excellence, and so they prefer problems involving perfectly spherical cows (shrimps) over non-deterministic systems (society). In scientist-shrimp relations, the scientist is god, the shrimps don't even have agency. In social work:patient relations, the worker is an equal and sometimes even subservient to the patient.
This would not be a problem per se except...
Both the scientists and social workers draw from the same pool of resources, the same pool of public attention, capital and political legitimacy that ultimately determines who lives or dies. The issues of triage here should be obvious even to a consequentialist. That shrimp welfare institutions exist alongside other underserved social ills is an indictment of one's moral math, a meta-absurdity even more deranged than the object level absurdity of shrimp welfare.
This is the main issue of consequentialist ethics. It is incapable of realizing, by its own logic, it just might not be universal, because if it is not universal, it loses its vitality. It is incomplete, like all mathematic systems. It is at its heart a virtue ethics using the authority of math to justify heterodox positions. Which is fine! Virtue ethics, like most philosophies, grows and evolves primarily by competing and contrasting with opposing perspectives, so this whole dynamic is still within the domain of virtue.
This is what virtue ethics (or deontology, if that's your thing) provides to consequentialists. An outside view that shores up the blindspots leading to the Repugnant Conclusion. Yes, this comment turned out to be a circuitous road to the Conclusion.
I had no idea you felt this way!
Is there some reason that so many people are focused on shrimp in particular?
I saw a performance art piece, Shrimp Dance, about how ingesting Prozac in the water is causing them to swim to the surface and be eaten. What is the ethical calculus between humans taking antidepressants and shrimp optimism? https://paulmichaelhenry.squarespace.com/shrimp-dance-1
when the memes overflow into reality
i am a simple man
I see a Substack article advocating for animal welfare / against factory farming, I "like" it
It would be morally bad to throw a broken bottle into the ocean cause it might hurt shrimp. It wouldn’t matter if the shrimp was born yet, either. Future shrimp matter and future shrimp could be incredibly numerous. We ought to make the future of shrimp a moral priority relative to current shrimp.
That’s a bit tongue in cheek, but on a more serious note: genetic modification to remove suffering from farmed and wildlife animals would have huge returns. And if all humans died it would be better if we left all the animals on earth without the ability to experience pain, but perhaps we would need to give them pain avoidance impulses. I’m not sure if they would revolve to experience pain though. Just some speculative thoughts.