It's time for politically, and morally, correct meat


I think we all know, or should know, that there is something wrong with 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 a great chain of awareness that we, who claim to be at the top of the chain, should respect as much as possible.

Like the Morlocks in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, our behavior is much to be regretted and we are under an obligation to model ourselves after our future, hopefully, Eloi incarnations. (The Morlocks and the Eloi were the cannibalistic human mutants and the gentle veggie-eating humans of the future, respectively, in the book.) 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 Morlock-like desire to eat animal flesh without actually killing and mutilating animals. The July 18th online issue of ScienceDaily discusses tissue engineering in the laboratory, which produces animal meat ("cultured meat'') without the animal, solving not only the problem of our moral responsibilities but actually somewhat reduces the threat to the planet from greenhouse gases.

This scientific study from Oxford and Amsterdam universities shows that cultured meat production would create only 4 percent of the greenhouse gases than 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 and 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 percent less energy.

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. Cultured meat could potentially be produced with up to 96 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions, 45 percent less energy, 99 percent lower land use, and 96 percent lower water use than conventional meat."

There is a friendly little pond bacterium (Cyanobacteria hydrolysate) that 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 such production is feasible. Ms Tuomisto says, "We are not saying that we could, or would necessarily want to replace conventional meat with its cultured counterpart right now, 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. Nevertheless, another world is possible, and we must set ourselves the task of trying to create it.

Photo: Will the cows get a reprieve? Jelle // CC 2.0

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • The author says we should model ourselves after our Eloi incarnations. The Elois, in The Time Machine, were the antithesis of what people should be. They unquestionably went to their deaths every time the cannibalistic monsters who lived below the surface beckoned them by turning on the sirens. They lived off fruit that grew on trees in lush forests and lounged around from morning to night, whenever they weren't eating the fruit. They performed no useful labor whatsoever and didn't lift a finger even to prevent themselves from becoming lunch for the Murdochs.
    I have no problem with decreasing meat consumption and replacing it with good grains and vegetables. I hate those TV infomercials, however, that try to sell super blenders into which you can easily throw tons of expensive, unaffordable, fresh vegetables. Into one blender a guy threw what had to be $20 worth of fresh produce, just to make a "health shake" for two.
    You can't tell working famiies, particularly the unemployed, that they should stop buying hamburger for $1.49 per pound and fill up instead on vegetables that might cost a lot more.
    Then there is the fact that we are biologically suited to eat a variety of foods, including meat, grains and vegetables. Meat protein, many argue, has helped humans develop in many ways.
    Also, I'm not willing to allow-profit making agribusiness corporations to produce and sell me gentically modified "meats" cooked up in their laboratories. That sounds like a pandora's box of potential problems.
    Sure, we have to be humane when it comes to all the animals with whom we share this planet. There are many methods of meat production that are much more humane than ones employed now by agribusiness. Some are practiced in a number of other countries already.
    Respect for the planet and the creatures that inhabit it does not mean one must become a total vegetarian or that one must consume genetically engineered stuff out of a laboratory.

    Posted by John W, 07/26/2011 11:59am (4 years ago)

  • It is important to recognize in the intelligence of Frederic Washington Bailey Douglas, liberated slave,(Frederic Douglas)brilliant intellectual and abolitionist, the devine love and fervent activity to revere life,(also, his main continuer, and our own W.E.B. Du Bois, taught this same reverence)and to hate human and sub-anthropological nature's suffering-ergo- to be active against animal cruelty, and particularly cruelty directed at animals who help us with their labor.
    Dogs, horses, and mules, have particularly helped with labor in the development of the Americas.
    These, along with the African, Asian and Native American human contributions to taming the Americas' flora and fauna, are often overlooked-what is to overlook the class struggle itself.
    Side by side with the conditioning of the human brain by the human hand was historically, the domesticated animal's contribution, in both food and work-this even in relatively recent history.
    We could not agree more with Thomas Riggins and science that animals have earned a reverent place in the activities and future activities of intelligent humanity-as Frederic Douglas taught us-let's find alternatives to barbarity-for our own sake.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 07/25/2011 1:34pm (4 years ago)

  • This sounds promising. Humans don't just need meat for the flavor. They need it for the protein. Nevertheless,

    I hope they can make a bacon flavor.

    Posted by Bobbie, 07/23/2011 8:44pm (4 years ago)

  • it is strange to read this when people r literally starving to death in somalia etc. and don't forget the folks in our country who r not getting enough to eat. i'll bet they all would like a little beef pork chicken or fish right now in solidarity jim

    Posted by jim, 07/23/2011 10:29am (4 years ago)

  • I'm a vegetarian and have no interest in it myself but I am very glad that lab meat will soon be available. We must end this heartbreaking animal holocaust as well eliminate carbon emissions from the stockyards. They play a huge part in global warming.

    Posted by ashabot, 07/22/2011 9:19pm (4 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments