So here's one for the Ethicist, that entertaining column in the NY Times which deals with readers who report on their ethical qualms...if you believe that eating meat is akin to murder, how about if the meat were produced in the laboratory? Would you feel the same about eating meat if you knew it did not come from a living, breathing, pain-aware animal?
If you have not heard about artificial or in-vitro meat, join the club. The idea in not new, as the reference to a NY Times article from 2005 shows.
From Peak Energy, this story [and image]:
Animal Rights group PETA recently announced a $1 million reward for the first person to make in-vitro meat (leading Bruce Sterling to dub them "People for the Ethical Treatment of Alien Lumps of Flesh).
But Ingrid Newkirk, one of the PETA's founders, said the decision to pay for a prize caused "a near civil war in our office." Many PETA members, the New York Times reported, "are repulsed by the thought of eating animal tissue, even if no animals are killed."
Artificial meat is a topic usually left to science fiction writers (see Kornbluth & Pohl, H Beam Piper, Samuel R Delany, Frank Herbert, Rudy Rucker or John Brunner for some examples), with a "meat beast" (or some other form of artificial protein produced in a vat) gracing the bowels of many spaceship kitchens and basements of remote arcologies, where raising livestock isn't an option.
Advocates for in vitro meat claim it is safer, healthier, more humane and less polluting to produce - as well as being one way of adapting to rising demand for food and constraints on the supply of inputs to traditional industrial agriculture. But one question remains, should a commercial meat production process ever be put into action - can we get past the "yuck" factor ?
The beat, or the research, goes on. wiki reports that "The Dutch government granted a two million euro subsidy for the project. In Amsterdam the culture medium is studied, while the University of Utrecht studies the proliferation of muscle cells and the Eindhoven university will research bioreactors."
With the awareness that meat cultivation has all kinds of side-effects, from the excessive carbon footprint of the meat to the ethical issues in factory farming, growing meat in-vitro may indeed become a viable alternative.