Opposing animal suffering in principle, they can ignore it in practice, relying on the visual disconnect between supermarket meat and slaughterhouse raciest not to trigger their moral emotions. But what if we could have the best of both worlds in reality-?eat meat and not harm animals? The nascent biotechnology of tissue culture, originally researched for medical applications, holds out just such a promise. Meat could be grown in vitro without killing animals.
In fact, this technology may not just be an intriguing option, but might be our moral obligation to develop. Keywords Animal suffering ? Animal welfare ? Artificial meat ? Biotechnology ? Agriculture ? Cultured meat ? Food production ? In vitro meat ? Moral sectarian ism ? Tissue culture The Problem of Eating Meat and Caring for Animals Modern American society loves to watch television cooking shows-?the creativity, the sensuousness, the clever techniques.
But chances are, if a lamb were dragged in and killed at the beginning of the program, most of the viewers would find themselves less interested in the lamb chop recipes. They would be too horrified or disgusted to enjoy the rest of the P. D. Hopkins Department of Philosophy, Milliamp College, 1701 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39210, USA e-mail: [email protected] Du A. Dace enter for Inquiry, 80 Broad street, Fifth Floor, New York, NY 10004, USA e- mail: [email protected] Net 123 580 P. D. Hopkins, A. Dace program. And yet, if the lamb’s flesh is brought in already killed and sliced, almost all sense of horror and sympathy is muted enough to be nearly unfelt. This is one of the disconnects of modern society. It is a widely commented on oddity that people can spend nearly as much money on their pets as on their children, oppose animal cruelty, and yet casually eat meat from slaughtered animals (Salesman 2006). There is also a widely commented upon explanation or the fact that most people who eat meat in modern societies can do so without triggering enough cognitive dissonance to stop.
The way meat is presented to consumers avoids triggering horror or sympathy by being sterile and distancing-?it appears in neat and nicely wrapped packages under bright lighting in the supermarket; fresh, clean and detached from its source, sometimes ground or covered in spices, and largely cut in such a way that we cannot even tell by looking which part of the animal the tissue comes from. Except for the tell-tale blood that pools up under the meat which we statistically discard at home, there is little visual and cognitive connection between the meat before us and the animal from which it came.
The oddity of meat-eating animal lovers is therefore easy to understand. What is not so widely commented upon is the fact that there are people who are uncomfortable carnivores and they know the explanation of this oddity. They do despise animal cruelty; they may belong to some animal welfare and protection organization; they may avoid eating veal in some self-admittedly inconsistent attempt to oppose cruel practices. They know in fact that they Ely on the supermarket disconnection between animal and meat in order to continue eating meat, and to greater or lesser degrees and greater or lesser frequencies feel guilty about it all.
The problem is that they love eating meat. Given that it is so easy to avoid the horrors of where the meat comes from, and given that vegetarianism seems such a literally and metaphorically unappealing lifestyle, they can fairly easily put it out of their minds. But they wish vaguely that they could be vegetarians. For the far greater number of people who eat meat without experiencing lilt, it is not difficult to make them very uncomfortable by talking about the sources of meat and the slaughter practices that provide it.
They may not think about it at all unless forced to, but a charming day taking the children to a petting zoo followed by a trip to a fast food 1 Even members of the curious category of macho chefs remark on the horror of watching how an animal gets turned into food. Anthony Birdbrain writes: “I was already unhappy with what was seeing. I’m causing this to happen, I kept thinking. This pig has been hand-fed for 6 months, fattened up I was responsible.
For a guy who’d spent twenty-sightseers serving dead animals and sneering at vegetarians, I was having an unseemly amount of trouble getting with the program. I had to suck it up… Let took four strong men, experts at this sort of thing, to restrain the pig, then drag and wrestled him up onto his side… With the weight of two men pinning him down and another holding his hind legs, the main man with the knife, gripping him by the head, leaned over and plunged the knife all the way into the beast’s thorax, just above the heart. The pig went wild.
The screaming penetrated the fillings in my teeth… With an incredible shower of fresh blood, the pig fought mightily… They finally managed to wrestle the poor beast back up onto the cart again, the guy with the mustache working the blade back and forth like a toilet plunger… ” (Birdbrain 2001 , up. 21-22). Michael Aurelian writes of Chef Thomas Seller’s experience of killing rabbits: “If he were going to cook rabbits, he should know how to skin, gut and butcher them as well. The purveyor showed up but did not prove to be an elegant teacher.
He knocked one rabbit out, slit its throat, pinned it to a board, skinned it, and gutted it, then left. That as it. And Keller was alone in the grass behind the restaurant with eleven cute little bunnies. Bunnies are cute. Soft fur, long ears, little pink noses, warm, yearning eyes. Keller didn’t want to kill them. But he had no choice at this point and eventually cranked up his resolve and made for one of the rabbits. ‘Rabbits scream,’ Keller told us at dinner. ‘And this one screamed really loud. ‘ It was an awful experience, he said.
He tried to kill it, but the rabbit was screaming so loud and struggling to get away the work was difficult. Then the rabbit’s leg snapped as it struggled to get away. So while it was still terrified and no likely in great pain, it could no longer run away, and Keller managed to kill it. ” (Aurelian 2001, p. 289) Vegetarian Meat 581 restaurant and the tiniest bit of intellectual prodding can produce, if not guilt, at least a request to stop talking about it. The point is that for many, many meat eaters, there is no joy taken in the thought of animal suffering or of animal dying.
There is great joy taken in eating meat, however, and since the thought of animal suffering can be so easily divorced from eating animals, the inconsistent practices continue unabated. And yet it is worth noticing that the dominant argument for vegetarianism-?the argument that (a) it is wrong to cause unnecessary pain and suffering (b) eating meat causes unnecessary pain and suffering; (c) so eating meat it wrong-?is mostly an argument with which reluctant and even not so reluctant meat eaters would agree (Reaches 2004).
It is just that those sterile supermarket practices make the second premise of the argument very, very easy to ignore and so the conclusion is never forced upon the consciousnesses in any demanding way. For those people who care about animal suffering and who are conscious of owe mitigating practices create such suffering, promoting vegetarianism is typically a matter of trying to educate others (more or less aggressively) or trying to model behavior. But these approaches have their limits and while moral vegetarianism has grown over the years, it still pales in comparison with the culture of eating meat. The problem then is basically that many people do not want to contribute to animal suffering and yet still very much want to eat meat. They can easily do this with the support of the conceptual and visual disconnect between their meat-eating and animal suffering. Is there any way around this? Beside the obvious answers of more guilt or more education-? which would still require meat-eaters to give up something they very much enjoy-?is there anything that would help?
Ideally, what would work best would be something that allowed people to eat meat without contributing to animal suffering or animal death. More humane practices in slaughtering animals might help somewhat, but this will hardly satisfy those who believe that animals have the right not to be killed in the first place. 4 Better yet would be something that allowed people to eat real meat without killing animals at all. Strange though this may t first seem, there is such a possibility, brought to us by biotechnology.
Biotechnology and Animal-Friendly Meat First of all it is important to realize that we are not talking here about meat substitutes, or “artificial” meat, or meat-like substances that are conglomerations of soy products and 2 Rain Decca comments that she has only “converted” a handful of people to vegetarianism and thus has become more pragmatic (Decca). 3 In a 2003 Vegetarian Resource Group Harris Interactive survey, 2. 8 percent of those surveyed said they never eat meat, poultry, or fish/seafood (Vegetarian Resource Group 2003).
It is also worth noting that it is questionable whether even strict vegetarianism would produce less suffering for animals overall. If vegetarianism increased the amount of land used for food production, then many animals might be killed or displaced to create such farmland. It might be the case that producing a pound of tofu produces more animal suffering than producing a pound Of cheese. 4 In this paper, we are focusing primarily on the suffering that current meat production practices create.
However, we acknowledge that there are ways to keep and slaughter animals that cause far less suffering than those which we owe employ in industrial practices. In spite of the possibility of more humane alternatives, though, the ideal solution would be to eliminate the need to keep and slaughter animals at all, given the difficulty of ever creating truly “humane” practices when so many market forces pressure the meat production industry to pack more and more animals into less and less space.
In this sense, what we are suggesting IS not “more extreme” than more humane slaughter practices, but is a way to avoid the numerous problems with instituting truly humane practices within the current system. 582 elating-?not even meat substitutes that taste and have textures exactly like real meat. We are talking about the possibility of real, genuine meat-?genuine animal muscle tissue-?that is animal-friendly in the sense that it requires no animal suffering and no animal death to produce. Such a solution, at least at first glance, would seem to provide everyone with what they want.
Meat- eaters have real meat; those who oppose animal suffering reduce animal suffering; those who promote animals’ rights to life keep animals alive; and most importantly, the animals themselves are no longer subjected to painful ND life shortening food production practices. So what we are talking about here is biotechnological produced meat. Depending on the method of production it might be called cultured meat, or synthetic meat (though using “synthetic” in terms of being manufactured, not in terms of being inauthentic), all part of the practice of “agriculture” (to parallel producing plant food through agriculture).
Imagine in some way a laboratory that could produce meat through a technological process; real steaks, real prime rib, real chicken breasts, real veal, grown in a lab. Though retainer not a practical option right now, there are reasons to think such a thing could be become available. Consider the following possibilities (ranging from those currently in use to the more speculative). Scaffolding Techniques Meat is already cultured on small and early scales using a variety of basic procedures, including techniques that use scaffolds and those that rely on self-organization (Delano et al. 2005).
For instance, skeletal muscle cells can be grown on small beads or mesh suspended in growth medium, some of which can even stretch to simulate motion and firm up the resulting meat. Cells fuse to form fibers that can then be harvested. Other forms of scaffolding could also be used, for example, growing muscle tissue on large sheets of edible or easily separable material. The muscle tissue could be processed after being rolled up to suitable thicknesses (Delano et al. 2005). While these kinds of techniques work for producing ground meats with soft consistency, they do not lend themselves to highly structured meats like steaks.
However, cells can also be grown in substrates that allow for the development of “self-organizing constructs” that produce more rigid structures. Self-organizing Tissue culture In 2002, M. A. Benjamin and colleagues made science news headlines by growing fish muscle tissue in culture (Benjamin et al. 2002; Bruit 2002; Sample 2002; Huskily 2006). Working on ways to make animal muscle protein available for astronauts, Benjamin and his team took slices of goldfish tissue, minced and centrifuged them to form pellets, placed them in Petri dishes in a nutrient medium and grew them for 7 days.
The explained tissue grew nearly 14% when using fetal bovine Serum as the nutrient medium and over 13% when using Imitate mushroom extract. Experiments in which the expanded tissue was bathed with a dissociated crude cell mixture composed of goldfish skeletal muscle tissue grew a surprising 79% in a week’s time. After a week, the explants and their newly grown tissue, which looked like fresh fish filets from a supermarket, were cooked (marinated in olive oil and garlic and deep-fried) and presented to a panel for observation. The panel reported that the fish looked and smelled good enough to eat.
They did not actually eat it, given the experimental nature of the food, but reporters were impressed that the fish reacted to cooking as would normal fish 583 lets and looked appetizing. The researchers are continuing their studies on poultry and beef tissue. Now of course, this research is hardly complete. Nothing in it by itself would satisfy someone wanting to eat meat without harming animals. Fish were killed. However, the muscle tissue did increase in size and new growth not coming directly from a killed animal was produced.
Though the research was directed at ways of producing muscle protein for space flight, Benjamin is quoted as saying “This could save you having to slaughter animals for food” (Sample 2002). The promise of course, is that given the right medium mushroom extract was successfully used) and given the right way to obtain initial explants to use as substrate for cell dissociation (perhaps biopsy-like procedures for the initial “donors”) this form of tissue culturing could produce a variety of meats suitable for eating.
Organ Printing One of the general problems with engineering suitable cultured meat is the consistency of the product. Current culturing techniques cannot provide the visualization or the fat marbling or other elements of workable and suitably-tasting meat that are not simply versions of ground soft meat. A attention solution to such problems comes from research on producing organs for transplantation procedures. Not surprisingly, given the confluence of technologies, some of the same people who are working on culturing meat are also working on research in “organ printing” (Morison et al. 2003).
Organ printing is a simple yet astounding idea. Using the principles of ordinary printing technology’-?the kind of technology that inkiest printers use to produce documents like this one-?researchers have essentially been able to use solutions containing single cells or balls of cells rather than ink and spray hose cell mixtures onto gels that act as printing paper. The “paper” can actually be removed through a simple heating technique or could potentially be automatically degradable. What happens is essentially that live cells are sprayed in layers to create any shape or structure desired.
After spraying these tatterdemalion’s structures, the cells fuse into larger structures, such as rings and tubes or sheets. As a result, researchers argue that the feasibility of producing entire organs through printing has been proved. The organs would have not only the basic cellular structure of the organ but would also include, built layer-by-layer, appropriate visualization providing a blood supply to the entire product. For applications focused on producing meat, fat marbling could be added as well, providing taste and structure.
Essentially, sheets and tubes of appropriate cellular components could create any sort of organ or tissue you would like-? whether for transplantation or for consumption (Morison 2003, p. 158; Although 2006). Photocopies Photocopies refers in general to the process of using light to bind together particles of matter. A new field, and one in which the mechanisms are still roll understood, photocopies relies on the effects of lasers to move particles of matter into certain organizational structures, such as three- dimensional chessboard, or hexagonal arrays.
A surprising property of interacting light, this phenomenon produces so called “optical matter’ in which the crystalline form of materials (such as polystyrene beads) can be held together by nets of infrared light that will fall apart when the light is removed. This is a phenomenon a step-up from “optical tweezers” that have been used for years to rotate or otherwise move tiny particles in laboratories. This has a binding effect among a group of 84 particles that can lead them not only to be moved one by one to specific locations but that can coax them to form structures.
Although primarily sparking interest in medical technologies such as separating cells, or delivering medicine or other unaccomplished substances to individual cells, there is an intriguing possibility that such a technology could be used for the production of tissues, including meat. A main researcher in photocopies, Siskin Dollars, reports in an interview that he and colleagues are already using the technology to create arrays of red blood cells and hamster ovaries (Mullions 2006).
Given the success of creating two-dimensional arrays, there is the possibility of producing tissue formations that use only light to hold the cells together, thus eliminating the need for scaffoldings such as those mentioned above in other techniques. 5 Nanotechnology The optical tweezers ability to move individual particles around has intrigued nanotechnology, who have wildly inventive plans for what to do with the molecular scale sized robots they would like to create (but so far, having few tools with which to make them).
Nanotechnology (the production and alteration of materials at the level of the atom and molecule) holds out enormous possibilities and although so far relatively little has been accomplished, tons of money is being poured into the research, suggesting as nothing else that it is taken seriously (http://www. Anna. Gob). The holy grail of nanotechnology is some version of an “assembler”, a robot the size of a molecule that would allow moving matter at the atomic and molecular level.
The obvious power of such a technology-?given that everything is made of the same basic atoms but simply arranged in different ways-?is that we would be able to construct virtually any substance we wanted from scratch by outing together exactly the molecules we wanted. Interestingly, one of the first examples given of the speculative technology of nanotechnology was that of synthesized meat. As De Regis writes of nanotechnology guru and pioneer Eric Drexel: You could turn dirt into steak if you wanted to.
That was an idea Drexel came up with in his college days… He thought that once you had the ability to deal with atoms on an individual basis, you could invent this… Meat machine… That would physically transform common materials into fresh beef… You’d open the door, shovel in a quantity of grass clippings or tree leaves… R whatever, and the you’d close the door, fiddle with the controls, and sit back to await the results. Two hours later, out rolled a wad of fresh beef.
Well, it sounded incredible. But when you thought about it so did the fact that cattle made beef. What materials did they have to work with, after all, but grass, air, water, and sunlight. Not one of these things looked remotely like steak… Nevertheless, what were cows but walking meat machines? (Regis 1995, up. 6-7). In short then, technologies ranging from the actual to the speculative promise a variety of ways to create real meat without killing animals.
On top of this, add the promise that genetic engineering could produce cells that have a variety of new qualities that would make meat even healthier and tastier-?higher protein, lower fat, high omega 3 acid levels or other healthful concoctions (Kola 2006). Though still commercially infeasible at the moment or in some cases technologically infeasible for several years to come, the point here is not to be distracted by the fact that we cannot yet make use of these technologies but rather to decide whether we should support the development of these technologies.
Some of the researchers in this field, for instance, are so committed to the development of cultured meat-?largely out 5 Also see OWE Magazine (2005), and Photonic. Com (2006). 585 of a desire to reduce the suffering of animals-?that they have formed companies and organizations to pursue the technology. For example, New Harvest is a “non-profit research organization working to develop new meat substitutes, including cultured meat-?meat produced in vitro, in a cell culture, rather than from an animal” (New Harvest 2008).
The question then is how to react to the possibility of cultured meat and in so doing, how to act in such a ay as to slow it down or speed it up. After all, while we began with the interesting fact that many meat-eaters are in some ways bothered by their consciences because of the suffering and death of animals, the moral question here is not centrally about the best way to soothe the conscience. The central question is about the best way to reduce animal suffering and whether cultured meat would lend itself toward that end.
Is cultured meat a good thing? Will it have morally and practically beneficial consequences? Is it something that should be embraced or something that should be rejected? It s these questions that this paper seeks to address. In Support of Cultured Meat The arguments in support of promoting cultured or synthesized meat are very clear and straightforward and are in essence the hopeful outlook Of a technological fix. Technology can allow us to change the physical constraints of the world so that we can better avoid the bad and pursue the good.
What is bad about meat consumption? Animals suffer and die. The environment is harmed. Humans consume often unhealthful substances. What could the widespread availability of in vitro meat accomplish? It could eliminate much f animal suffering. It could eliminate much of the environmental damage produced by meat animal farming. It could produce much healthier forms of food for humans and other animals to consume. In addition, it would allow humans the pleasure of eating meat-?something we have evolved to enjoy even if we can live without it.
Not surprisingly then, cultured meat has found quite a number of supporters, including well-known animal welfare activists and animal rights activists. 6 The real heart of the issue then will be in the potential objections to in vitro meat. It is there that the rest of this paper will focus. Objections to Cultured Meat Inevitably, when going through a series of objections, one will cover material that some think is hardly relevant and others think is the crucial matter, that some think is barely worth mentioning and others think is the highest priority.
In what follows We roughly position what we see as the most important and most morally complex objections to cultured meat toward the end, but realize that readers may have different priorities. The order of objections should not then be taken too seriously. Danger A common response to any sort of biotechnology is a worry about the danger f consuming untested (or even tested) novel materials.