Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Time for Politically (and Morally) Correct Meat

Thomas Riggins

I think we all know, or should know, that there is something wrong will killing animals for their meat. Modern science has shown that animals have both sentience and consciousness, feel pain, and experience an emotional life. From insects to us there is great chain of being aware which we, who claim to be at the top of the chain, should respect as much as possible.

Our Morlock behavior is much to be regretted and we are, I think, under an obligation to model ourselves after our future, hopefully, Eloi incarnations. We are also obligated politically to strive towards a world where the exploitation of humans by other humans comes to an end: and beyond that the exploitation and infliction of suffering on our fellow creatures in general.

Now science has come up with a method by which we can satisfy our current Morlockean desire to eat animal flesh without actually killing and mutilating animals. The July 18th online issue of ScienceDigest ["Lab-Grown Meat Would Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Save Energy, Research Suggests] discusses tissue engineering in the laboratory which produces animal meat ("cultured meat'') without the animal, which would not only solve the problem of our moral responsibilities but actually reduces, somewhat, the threat to the planet from green house gases: the major greenhouse gas threat comes from fossil fuels, especially coal.

This scientific study from Oxford and Amsterdam universities says that cultured meat production would create only 4% of the greenhouse gases as are currently produced by animal raising and slaughtering techniques. While fowl would require more energy, the lab meat would require only a very small part of the land and water used with living birds. Meanwhile pork, sheep and beef could be produced in the same amount as today for 7 to 45% less energy, according to the report.

Oxford's Hanna Tuomisto, the director of the study, said: "What our study found was that the environmental impacts of cultured meat could be substantially lower that those of meat produced in the conventional way [i.e., by killing-tr]. Cultured meat could potentially be produced with up to 96% lower green house gas emissions, 45% less energy, 99% lower land use, and 96% lower water use than conventional meat."

There is a friendly little pond bacterium (Cyanobacteria hydrolysate) which is used as a food and energy source in the lab to grow muscle cells. Cultured meat is not yet ready to be mass produced but mass production is feasible. Ms Tuomisto says, "We are not saying that we could, or would necessarily want to to, replace conventional meat with its cultured counterpart right now [don't scare off the Morlocks], however, our research shows that cultured meat could be part of the solution to feeding the worlds growing population and at the same time cutting emissions and saving both energy and water. Simply put, cultured meat is, potentially, a much more efficient and environmentally-friendly way of putting meat on the table."

The scientists also pointed out the land no longer used for animal meat production could be reforested and used to capture atmospheric carbon-- plus transportation and refrigeration costs would be substantially reduced with cultured meat.

Finally Ms. Tuomisto remarked:"There are obviously many obstacles to overcome before we can say whether cultured meat will become part of our diet, not least of which is whether people would be prepared to eat it! But we hope our research will add to the debate about whether we could, or should, develop a less wasteful alternative to meat from animals."

Will people eat cultured meat? This depends on their level of political awareness and their moral sensitivity. Today, in a world where a Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman can dream of being president of the US, where the Tea Party mentality stalks the land, where overseas people are gunned down in the streets for peaceful protests, American imperialism plans world domination, and Nato hopes to restore European hegemony in the third world, our "conventional" meat eating days seem far from over.

Nevertheless, another world is possible and we must set ourselves the task of trying to create it.

1 comment:

october251038 said...

Tom: I sent a comment. Jack Clontz in Bangkok, Thaialnd