Category Archives: animals

The Cheering of the Bulls

Bull fighting is barbaric and should be prohibited, and not only in space settlements. But for some reason people have a unsatisfiable need for “gruesome” entertainment, hence a proposal for a totally animal friendly alternative for bull fighting.

First like traditional bull fighting, this game is performed in an arena. Second we substitute real bulls with two humans in a realistic bull costume (including sharp horns), alternatively we could remote-controlled animatrons (but my preference is the first option). Third we need a human who fights the “bulls”, this person is referred to as the “coward”. Fourth within the arena there’s a field with a marked line, called the “ring”.

The rules are quite simple. First, the coward enters the arena and will stand at the midpoint, then (s)he will greet the audience. Meanwhile the coward is booed and insulted for coward by the audience. Subsequently two “bulls” enter the arena, and now the audience is cheering for the “bulls”.

The task for the “bulls” is plain and simple: pushing the coward outside the ring, for each time they manage to push him outside the ring they will receive a point. But also the coward can earn points by leaping over the “bulls”, each time he succeeds in leaping over a “bull”, the coward receives a point. The team which has the most points after fifteen minutes, wins the game.

To make this game even more exciting, each time the “bulls” earn a point the audience will cheer, but every time the coward earns one they will boo him.


A proposal for the animal friendly production of eggs

Recently the first hamburger made of in vitro meat got much attention, not in the last place because Google founder Sergey Brin was revealed as the primary funder of this project. Much of the appeal of in vitro meat, is because this development would allow us to reconcile our desire to consume meat with our commitment to animal welfare. In vitro meat eliminates the need to kill animals, and it also reduce the number of livestock needed to meet the demand for meat.

But meat is not the only popular food obtained from animals. Eggs and dairy are other much consumed animal products. Even if by switching to in vitro meat will reduce the number of livestock held for meat, a large number is still required to produce milk and eggs.

And not only the number of animals needed is a problem from the perspective of animal welfare, but also the issue of young male animals. Since the latter are mostly valueless for dairy and egg industry, they are usually killed soon after their birth. But the male young account for half of the new-born animals.

In case for dairy the solution is quite simple, instead of using animal milk we could switch to plant milk. To “improve” plant milk we could genetically engineer plants to produce animal proteins such as casein. From plant milk one could produce all kind of dairy products such yoghurt or ice cream. I once read an article about extracting proteins directly from grass, which could be used for subsequent human consumption.

Eggs seem to be more difficult to replace, but like meat most consumption of eggs is in processed food. Eggs are used as binding or raising agents in many food products. Vegans and other people who do not consume eggs, have found several substitutes for eggs for these purposes, such as flax-seed and starch flour. By using these substitutes, the number of animals used for the production of eggs can be reduced.

But even if we are able to replace eggs in processed food products, there is still the “direct” consumption of eggs. The question is of course, if we can culture meat in a lab, can we cannot do the same thing with eggs? After all, the eggs we consume are nothing else than big cells. In vitro meat is produced by growing stem cells and turning those into muscle tissue. And as we have discussed here and here, stem cells can be turned into egg cells.

Once we have “artificial” (chicken) egg cell, we have still no (chicken) eggs. The challenge is now to simulate the processes which turn an egg cell into an egg in the laboratory. First we have to grow the egg, by feeding it nutrients. And subsequently, we have to give the grown egg a scale. But if this technology can be developed, we have a method to produce eggs for human consumption in a truly animal friendly way.

See also

Space colonization and vegetarianism – this post discusses the importance of vegetarian diets in space settlements.

Space colonization and in vitro meat – this post discusses the prospects of in vitro meat for space colonists.

Could in vitro meat save the whales?

Animal welfare is an important issue for Republic of Langrangia. How we treat our fellow living beings, is the litmus test of our humanity. One important issue is whaling. During the 20th century commercial whalers almost exterminated many whale species. Until in 1986 the International Whaling Commission put a moratorium on whaling.

Since then there are two camps: one side is for a permanent ban on whaling, arguing that the population of whales is still too small. The other side argues that some species have recovered enough to re-allow limited whaling. Since cetaceans are intelligent animals, we oppose the killing of these animals.

In-vitro meat is a recent scientific breakthrough, which allows people to produce meat in an animal and environmental friendly way. For this method of meat production there’s no need to kill animals, instead stem cells are taken from the animal through a biopsy. One stem cell can, according to the scientists involved, produce up to 10,000 kg of meat, which is in the order of the size of a medium-sized whale.

For research scientists perform regularly biopsies on living whales, and without killing them. Therefore whalers of the future shouldn’t have any trouble with obtaining whale stem cells for the production of in-vitro whale meat.

This approach would solve many issues: first, the IWC can prohibit the killing of whales for ever. Secondly, whalers do not lose their jobs, since they are still needed to collect tissue samples from whales. And consumers can buy whale meat with the knowledge that no whale has been killed and hence that whales will not be hunted to extinction again.


Dutch rabbi declares in-vitro meat to be kosher

According to Dutch rabbi Lody van de Kamp, in vitro meat is in line with the kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws. Earlier this week the first hamburger made of cultured meat was presented by the public, at this occasion is was announced that Google founder Sergey Brin was the chief sponsor of the project.

Mr. Van de Kamp also states that in-vitro meat might be a solution for the ongoing discussion about ritual slaughter in the Netherlands. Last year a bill aimed at the prohibition of ritual slaughter without stunning was the defeated in the Dutch senate, after having passed by the house of representatives. Surprisingly the rabbi also suggested that in the future, if stem cell can be made from DNA without harvesting of an animal, Jews can be allowed to eat pork.

Google co-founders funds in vitro meat

Today it was made public that Google co-founder Sergey Bergin has been the mystery backer of Dutch scientist Mark Post’s project to create the world first lab grown hamburger. On this blog we have discussed to importance of lab-grown or in vitro meat before. As we have discussed in another post:

The main reason why Musk might want a vegetarian-only colony, is that meat is a very inefficient method of producing food. For producing 1kg of beef you need 10kg of vegetable food for cattle. Especially in the first Space settlements this will be an important factor. After all, the early space habitats will be small and agricultural land will limited. Since humans can perfectly live on a vegetarian diet, it will be an easy choice for Space governments to ban the raising of livestock for food.

It will be an easy choice, because for every cow ten people can be fed. So by banning livestock Space settlements can sustain a population up to ten times larger. Since these extra people will have a greater economic value than livestock, Space communities can grow faster to full economic independence from Earth.

As we can see in the article on BBC News: in vitro meat will require only 55% percent of the energy used by, emits only 4% of the greenhouse gas emission of, and only 1% of the land occupied by traditional animal farming. Especially the last reduction, is important for early space settlers. By switching to in vitro meat, space settlers can save 99% of their land, which can be used for more important applications.

Although at this moment only meatloaf can be produced by this method, we have to consider that most meat consumption consists of processed meat, such as hot-dogs, hamburgers, pizzas and chicken-nuggets. And in vitro meat is especially useful for producing such meat products.

Since the method developed by Prof Post, allow 10,000 kilogram of meat to be produced from one single stem cell, it is no longer necessary to kill animals. The needed stem cells can extracted from living animals through a biopsy, a standard medical procedure. Because stem cells can easily be frozen, there is no need for importing livestock to space settlements from Earth. However, in the more distant future it would be advisable to have a small herd of donor animals, for reasons of food security.

Space colonization and vegetarianism

In a previous post we critically reviewed Elon Musk’s Mars colony plans and we mostly destroyed his idea. However, there is one good aspect to Musk’s plan. According to this article, Musk’s colony would be an all-vegetarian society. The question is, of course, why does Elon Musk want a vegetarians-only? [For the purpose of this post we will consider vegans as a subcategory of vegetarians.] Continue reading Space colonization and vegetarianism

Noah’s Ark 2.0

This post was originally posted on on April 23, 2012

In our post on meat production in outer space we briefly addressed the problem of transporting herds of animals from Earth to Space colonies. Transporting small animals like dogs and cats, will not a big deal. But larger animals like cattle or horses are much more difficult. The primary problem is with mass, launching a certain mass of payload from the surface of the Earth, cost much more mass of fuel, see Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation. This equation tells us that it will be almost impossible to launch an elephant from Earth to Space colony. Recall that from an orbit around our blue planet to the Lagrange points of the Earth-Sun system, will only take a little amount of energy and propellant mass.

If we want to bring animals to Space colonies, we should take as little as possible. In theory we should take only a couple, one male and one female, and then breed from them as many as necessary. But there is one big problem with this approach: inbreeding. In order to reduce the negative effects of inbreeding we should increase the number of transported animals, and so increasing transportation costs. There is a simple solution for these dilemma: nowadays sperm and eggs (female gametes) can easily be stored. And by this method a relatively small space craft can transport a large collection of genetic information of several species and multiple individuals of each species. When this cargo of sperm and eggs arrives at the Space colony, scientists can create new embryos by using in vitro fertilization.

You may argue that even if we create embryos we will still need some female of each specie. This is true to a certain degree, yes we need a womb, but this doesn’t need to be one of the same species. Currently scientists are researching interspecific pregnancy, this made it possible to implant, say a horse embryo, into a cow. A potential problem with this technology is as follows: a certain female animal may carry only a young with a smaller than a certain size, for example: a domestic cat cannot give birth to a bovine calf. But even this problem is possibly to solve. We can imagine that some small animal A gives birth to little bigger (at adulthood) animal B, which on her turn can give birth to an ever bigger (at adulthood) animal, etcetera. Of course this procedure will take some time, but it is possibly our only option.

A technologically more advanced solution will be the use of artificial wombs. In theory these can be made of any size, and will allow us even to breed elephants in Outer Space. However, currently is this technology not fully developed, so at this moment interspecific pregnancy is our best option. But if reproductive technology advances artificial wombs will provide us an ideal solution.