Normally, I love technology and am all for its advancement as long as there is an antidote should it prove to be physically or ethically harmful. There is a line, however, over which technological advancement frequently crosses into the world of promulgating sheer gluttonous sloth. The antedote in the case of modern animal farming is to change human behavior. If we consume less meat, farmers aren't pressured to over-produce massive qunatities in order to stay economically competitive. Less pressure to over-produce means less incentive to abuse farmed animals with antibiotics, hormones, extremely unhealthy food and other revolting living conditions.
But is the American populous ready to make that sacrifice for the sake of being humane? You bet your ass we're not. Instead, commercial science has discovered a much more attractive antidote to modern animal farming -- one that requires significantly less effort on the part of the consumer than reducing meat consumption. For the last decade or so, scientists have been learning how to culture "meat" in a petri dish (Datar & Betti 2009; Edelman et al 2005). We (the people) are so lazy and so addicted to meat that scientists and economists have fleshed out an analysis of the viability of in vitro meat culturing as a "replacement" for meat farming (In Vitro Meat Consortium 2008).
Is it less of a personal burden to adjust to the taste of stem cell meat than to eat less meat and/or eat more local/grassfed/humanely farmed meat? The In Vitro Meat Consortium seems to think so, as does PETA:
"As far as we’re concerned, if meat is no longer a piece of a dead animal there’s no ethical objection."Really? Because I'm pretty sure that teaching humanity survival through relying on technology to save us from having to make proactive changes in our behavior has negative ethical implications. For instance, the backward evolution of our species.
"Lab-grown meat isn't an easy sell, but there could be benefits. Designer meat would theoretically be free of hormones, antibiotics, and the threat of mad cow disease or bird flu. Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins could be blasted into the mixture ", says Ian Christe in his article in Popular Mechanics on the subject.Yes, Ian, you are absolutely correct. However, HUMANELY FARMED ANIMALS WOULD ALSO BE THEORETICALLY FREE OF HORMONES, ANTIBIOTICS AND THE THREAT OF MAD COW DISEASE OR BIRD FLU. Additionally, OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS AND VITAMINS ARE PRESENT IN FREE-ROAMING UNGULATES WHO ARE NOT PUMPED FULL OF GRAIN-BASED SLOP TO FATTEN THEM UP ALL YEAR ROUND. And further, WHAT ABOUT ALL THE OTHER SUBSTANCES THAT ARE USED IN THE CULTURING OF THE MEAT; MUST WE ASSUME (like idiots) THEY WILL BE TOTALLY HARMLESS?
So, I must pose the final question: will humanity prefer the financial burden of commercial in vitro meat production, or the burden of changing their consumptive behavior in order to promote humane animal farming? Unfortunately, I fear the former may win out.
Lastly, a warm thank you to PETA for supporting the de-evolution of humanity (not that I'm surprised), as well as an alternative to industrially farmed meat that wont actually stop anyone who wants to taste real meat from doing so (tofu dogs have already made this attempt).