(image courtesy T Shirt Bordello)
I was a vegetarian for 7 years, so I have eaten my fair share of veggie burgers and fake bacon (actually, fake bacon is why I stopped being a vegetarian, but that’s a whole other story). So the idea of “fake” meat doesn’t bother me most of the time, but this latest news is truly creepy-scientists are working on making “meat” using stem cells and petri dishes.
According to the BBC:
Scientists in the Netherlands hoping to create a more efficient alternative to rearing animals have grown small pieces of beef muscle in a laboratory.
These strips will be mixed with blood and artificially grown fat to produce a hamburger by the autumn.
The stem cells in this particular experiment were harvested from by-products of slaughtered animals but in the future, scientists say, they could be taken from a live animal through biopsy.
One usually assumes the main motivation for vegetarianism – aside from those who practise for religious reasons – is about the welfare of animals. The typical vegetarian forswears meat because animals are killed to get it.
So if the meat does not come from dead animals would there be an ethical problem in eating it if it one day lands on supermarket shelves?
It’s not as simple an equation as that, says Prof Andrew Linzey, director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. He says the burger as currently envisaged isn’t an acceptable substitute for vegetarians, but is still a step forward.
Yea, given the choice between a veggie burger and science project burger, I am all over the veggie option. It isn’t that meat makes me squeamish (I do cook and eat meat regularly these days), but there’s something mostly natural about that process. Sure, I didn’t raise the cow or hunt the turkey, but I know my food came from nature. This is very science fiction, and it makes my skin crawl a bit. It would not surprise me in the least if most vegetarians held a similar attitude. There are more humane ways to be a meat-eater, and plenty of farms and restaurants offer transparency in the treatment of animals and their diet. Sometimes, people simply don’t like how meat proteins make them feel, or they choose to be more plant-based in their diet for health reasons. Where the meat came from is only one consideration out of many.
I just can’t shake thinking about this episode of Dilbert the cartoon series whenever I picture lab grown meat:
Admittedly, even with the more problematic issues of genetically modified plants, I would still pick something that grew out of the ground over something grown in a lab. If my only meat choices were labmeat, I would happily go back to being a vegetarian. There’s just something deeply upsetting and unnatural about removing nature from the act of procuring food.
Would you eat meat grown in a lab? Or is that taking food science too far for you? Let us know in the comments!