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.