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Test Tube Meat? Thank You, We'll Pass.

April 24, 2008 | Veganism

So now an advocacy group announces they'd present a million bucks to someone who invents animal flesh in a test tube.

Just as bizarrely, our great media outlets are actually giving this announcement attention.

Truth be told, the media have a penchant for bestowing attention on any animal activists who do or say something they think their viewers will find weird.

And in vitro meat sure fits the weird bill.

We humans are primates. Our bodies have no nutritional need for meat. If anything, it's high time we get beyond our fascination with opening our mouths and inserting flesh.

We make living beings onto commodities and we deforest land incessantly in the name of meat-eating. Some may say growing meat from a few cells in labs could mean keeping the flesh without needing to graze the animals. And yet, having our food, which is to continue including flesh, produced for us by people in white lab coats hardly seems a better vision of humanity's future.

The process of developing lab-grown tissues from animal cell cultures means using and experimenting with animals"¦ for years. Make no mistake: The experiments won't just all come to an end when a perfect copy of muscle tissue is made. Scientists plan to explore ways to limit fat, preserve traditional taste, and eliminate bacteria. Vladimir Mironov, a cell biologist and anatomy professor at the Medical University for South Carolina, has said: "We want to create something better than natural meat."

Already, far too much control over our food is placed with scientists who treat living beings as their testing instruments. And the in vitro meat idea only reinforces the notion that flesh belongs in our diet, while ignoring the beauty and kindness of vegetarianism.

Imagine what could be done with a million dollars. The Candle 79 restaurant already offers seitan dishes with texture and seasoning that make them indistinguishable from meat, and they don't harm a single animal. These folks are offering their community a vegan restaurant that can hold its own in New York City's world of fine dining. Has anyone offered them a million for doing it? Don't they deserve it?

We noted a very good blog entry today at "Bitten" by Mark Bittman. As you probably know, Bittman's a renowned cookbook author (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food) and author of the "Minimalist" column in the Dining section of The New York Times.

Bittman's recent entry, "Get Out Your Chemistry Sets: It's Time to Make Meat!" (April 22, 2008), points out that invented food hasn't had much, historically, to recommend it. And the notion that technology is going to produce environmentally sound substitutes for animal farms is belied -- by fish farming, for just one example.

Bittman's bottom line? "[T]here is already an alternative to meat out there, one that can not only improve individual health but decrease harm to animals and the environment: it's called vegetables."

Right on, Mark Bittman.

- Lee Hall, for Friends of Animals.

Comments

Thank Heavens for FOA speaking out against this horror. In-vitro meat will open pandora's box for animal experimenters, cloning, and more warehousing of animals whose DNA, tissues will be tested and retested, and inhouse breeding all for the purpose of who can come closest to the real taste of meat- OH MY GOD WHAT A HORROR!!! Newkirk has completely lost her mind!

Amen. PETA is nuts for thinking this will solve anything. PETA over the last decade or two has given a bad name to vegans, vegetarians, and animal lovers everywhere with their all or nothing approach. They never understand how to work with people or talk to them for that matter. They shout. I'm glad FOA works responsibly and with a level head much like Farm Sanctuary and the HSUS. Thank you for being real.

Actually, it's naive to think that an end to animal exploitation will ever occur *without* veganism. Mixed messages keep people from making that final decision to uphold respect for all living creatures. I've seen this on the large scale, with so-called animal advocacy groups promoting things such as the eating of test-tube flesh, and on the small scale, such as when insecure vegans downplay their ethical stances when challenged by others. The message delivered by our actions is an important consideration, not only the direct impact of those actions. However, in this case, that point is moot as it has already been explained how animals *will* suffer by this artificial meat (including the human animals that will ingest it, continuing a legacy of avoidable health problems). I'm a Star Trek fan, too, but we don't need to wait for the future to get healthy food that looks, feels, and tastes like meat (if that's what you need). Many a vegan restaurant or grocery product can provide this. To insist otherwise is a stubborn denial of facts.

This guy totally disagrees. It's naive to think an end to factory farming and the intensive confinement of animals will come through promoting veganism. People do what they want and they want meat. If test tube meat becomes viable, eventually people would try it and switch over. I might even try it. Isn't that more or less what people supposedly were going to do in the Star Trek vision. A replicator. And who cares if people eat it as long as no animal has to suffer for it! [Blog editors' note: Fleshmongering aside, it's animal agribusiness, not just factory farming that's being challenged on ethical and ecological grounds. As we've written in Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine (maybe you should order a copy), eating other animals isn't the best response to a hungry society. Cows, chickens and others are not resources, and it's high time to envision the kind of future worthy of our burgeoning human population. As the adage goes, Spare an Animal, Eat a Vegetable.]

Absolutely agree, thank you Lee. Advocating test tube meat does veganism a great disservice, likely leaving many with the impression that somehow consuming the flesh of dead animals is desired by us, or even worse, somehow necessary...neither of which are true.

I totally agree with Friends of Animals opinion about test tube created meat. Eating meat whether real, or duplicated is unhealthy for humans and ethically, very questionable. There is no reason to believe that such a way out method would stop factory farming, which is a huge, powerful industry with deep pockets. Even if test tube meat could be created it would go the way of the environment- friendly cars invented years ago which would have put Detroit out of business. The million dollar reward could be used to stop so many injustices to victims of factory farms, why save it for something that may or may not ever happen? Boggles the mind!

Lee, thank you for this important commentary. Animal advocacy cannot be called such when it goes the route of promoting flesh-eating, instead of the simple solution: Veganism. Bittman's comment is spot on--into each life may more vegetables come!

I don't think I can add a thing. Maybe a resounding "amen"? Seriously: Thank you.

What people want is subtly and not-so-subtly influenced by messages they receive from their family, friends, and various media outlets. The assumption that people will always want meat simply because many want it now is false.

FOA claims lab meat involves animal abuse....can you please explain this connection.

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