DanielLC wrote:I get the impression that factory farmed animals do not live lives with more happiness than suffering.
Almost certainly. Note that this is not an intrinsic property of factory farming, just of the mismatch between the natural psychology of these animal and factory farming. In a way, it's a tragedy: There we have these huge unprecedented systems that create billions of sentient brains in highly controlled environments that decouple their behavioral functions from their survival and reproduction probabilities, and they end up suffering rather than being happy.
If the domestication process had had a strong optimization pressure toward completely fearless, painless minds resistant to boredom, with hypersensitive pleasure centers and a sublime sense of bliss, that would have been a huge utility-generation machine. But of course, that's not the optimization criterion of these industries, they're there to make a profit, and they do that by delivering physical goods to human customers. The only two feedback mechanisms to shift the hedonistic utility of the animals are empathy of workers, customers and the general public, and reduced physical output from overly stressed and therefore unhealthy animals. To my knowledge, both of these feedback mechanisms have so far been too weak to turn the tables and result in positive rather than negative hedonistic utilty, at least to a standard that I would find acceptable for coercive systems.
This could still change, hypothetically, but considering that these brains and their skulls and bones are actually a form of waste to a huge degree, we'll eventually do away with them completely (e.g. through in-vitro meat and other technologies), and my impression is we're probably going to do that before we do anything else sufficient to shift the utility from negative to positive. (There's still some further benevolent breeding going on, e.g. in order to make pig castration obsolete etc., but that's likely not going to turn the tables here).