Those of us who believe in animal rights but enjoy a good steak practice a bizarre cognitive dissonance akin to the twenty-a-day smoker.
We know meat is unethical, we've seen the gnarly videos online, some of us have even smelled the putrid stench of a slaughterhouse up close. But somehow, our bloodthirsty primitive desire for BBQ ribs and KFC always wins out.
Soon we won't have to worry so much. And we don't have to be all boring and vegetarian about it either. The latest advances in 3D printing and stem cell technologies mean that 'meat without murder' could be readily available in most supermarkets as early as 2018. And the choice is an easy one.
Scientists have successfully cultivated organic muscle cells outside of a body and can now engineer entire pieces of pain-free meat void of an animal nervous system.
Once eating animal protein becomes ethical and humane, will we see a drop in veganism and vegetarianism? Or will the very thought of meat still repulse many?
Two years ago a group of Dutch academics created the world’s first lab-grown burger, made and eaten in London. According to the BBC, it cost $325,000 to produce.
Only a few years later, the price has dropped significantly and a team of Israeli scientists have refined and streamlined the process.
Every day, 23 million chickens are killed for food in the United States alone. The Modern Agriculture Foundation (MAF) in Ramat Gan, Israel believes it can end the barbaric practice of slaughtering animals by as early as 2018.
Co-founder and project leader Shir Friedman recently sent a statement to the project's sponsors:
“We are a group of caring individuals who came to the conclusion that what the world needs urgently, in terms of helping both the environment and animals, is for everybody to go vegan. But that’s not realistic.
So when we heard about the idea of cultured meat, we realised this is a way to reduce harm to animals and the environment while giving people the meat they want to eat.”
Today it's chicken. Tomorrow it's beef, pork and lamb. By targeting the development of a tissue-engineered chicken breast, which is a popular choice for a main course in many cultures and countries, the team can identify challenges on the road to commercial production.
Jason Matheny, a vegetarian and doctoral student and scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park recently commented on how effective the new methods could be to Vegetarian Times:
"There are all sorts of ethical and health advantages to this technology. First, no animals have to be killed. In theory, we could collect cells from one of every type of animal now raised for food, rather than slaughtering 40 billion creatures each year.”
Given that many vegetarian substitutes either contain animal meat anyway or, sometimes, even human DNA, this new technology can't come quick enough.
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