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A vegetarian perspective on in-vitro meat

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Message Heather Moore
At first, the idea of eating meat that is grown in a test tube may make some people—especially vegans like me—a bit squeamish, but when you consider the current method of meat production and its devastating impact on the planet, you’ll likely agree that in-vitro meat is an appetizing alternative. PETA’s $1 million prize incentive for scientists to create marketable in-vitro meat by 2012 could have far-reaching effects for animals, humans and the environment. For those who don’t have the discipline to give up eating animals—despite evidence that animal products don’t do our bodies any good—lab-grown meat is a viable solution with positive ramifications.

Billions and billions of animals would be spared from pain and suffering, for starters. More than 40 billion cows, chickens, pigs and other farmed animals are killed for their flesh each year in the United States alone. An end to factory farms and slaughterhouses would mean an end to painful debeaking, branding and castration practices. Chickens would no longer be scalded alive in defeathering tanks or cows dismembered while they’re still conscious.

We would never have to see another disturbing video showing slaughterhouse workers stomping on chickens and slamming them against walls; dragging injured pigs around by their snouts, legs or ears; or pushing downed cows onto the kill floor with a forklift. Meat recalls would be a thing of the past.

We would have a greener planet and an end to the global food crisis. Greenhouse gasses would be dramatically reduced and animal waste would not taint our waterways. And it may eventually be possible to grow millions of pounds of protein from a single cell, a monumental improvement from the inefficiencies of animal agriculture. As things stand now, it takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat. A staggering 760 million tons of grain will be used to feed farmed animals this year—compared to 100 million tons used to produce fuel. Around 1.4 billion people could be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone.[l1] 

And humans would be healthier. Not just because in-vitro meat will not contain antibiotics, listeria and salmonella or because mad-cow disease and other animal-borne illnesses will become a thing of the past, but also because no one will have to live downwind of a stinky, pollution-spewing animal factory. A Scripps Howard synopsis of a Senate Agricultural Committee report on farm pollution warned, “Catastrophic cases of pollution, sickness, and death are occurring in areas where livestock operations are concentrated. … Every place where the animal factories have located, neighbors have complained of falling sick.”

When in-vitro meat is commercially available, our oil problems will be significantly reduced. More than one-third of all fossil fuels produced in the U.S. are used to raise animals for food. Each stage of meat production requires massive amounts of energy—and costs massive amounts of money.

Laboratory-grown meat will have a major impact on many facets on life, from ethical to ecological to economical. While mass quantities of in-vitro meat may not be feasible for a few years, tasty mock meats and other vegetarian alternatives can be found in supermarkets today. Until forward-thinking scientists can produce “meat” without the moo, why not choose vegan foods that have been benefiting animals, people and the environment for years?     

 [l1]Or this one.

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Heather Moore is a freelance writer and a senior writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in Norfolk, Va., where she lives with her rescued dog, Carly. Heather frequently writes on animal rights and health issues as a freelance (more...)
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