Tag Archives: in vitro meat

Ben Davidow on in vitro meat

Animal welfare activist Ben Davidow has written an excellent article on why we should support cultured meat from an animal welfare perspective. Davidow establishes that many animal welfare activists show little to no enthusiasm for in vitro meat, and in his article he refutes several common objections raised against cultured meat. Continue reading Ben Davidow on in vitro meat

In vitro meat articles

We have posted several post on in vitro meat on this site. Here an overview.

Space colonization and vegetarianism

Space colonization and in vitro meat

Could in vitro meat save the whales?

In vitro leather

In vitro blood?

A proposal for the animal friendly production of eggs

Google co-founder funds in vitro meat

Algae and in vitro meat

The Colbert Report on in vitro meat (Warning: Canadian visitors might not be able to watch the video in this post)

In vitro leather

We have discussed in vitro meat several times at this site, mainly as an animal-friendly and suitable supply of meat for space settlers. The idea of in vitro meat is simple: take some muscle cells from an animal and put that in lab culture.

Andras Forgacs has realized that you do the same thing with skin tissue, and hence culture leather in the lab without killing animals. In the video below, Forgacs explains that cultured leather has not only the same qualities as “natural” leather, but actually one would create leather of superior quality. This because one has more control on conditions in which the leather is grown.

Leather has a certain appeal, and though I don’t buy leather for ethical reasons, I like this material. So do many vegetarians and vegans, so they do much efforts to obtain accurate imitation leather (if I need to buy new shoes, I have to take a one-hour train trip to Amsterdam to buy shoes at a special vegan shoe shop).

Cultured leather would be great for those who like both animals and leather products. Further it would prevent the slightly dystopian future I described in this story I wrote two years ago about a world were cattle farming has been out phased to make room for growing energy crops.

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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.

In vitro meat and cannibalism

As the regular reader will know, we of Republic of Lagrangia are quite enthusiastic about in vitro meat. For non-regular readers, in-vitro meat is meat cultured outside the body of an animal, mostly in a lab. In order to do this, scientists have to collect stem cells from, for instance, a cow, which can be done though a biopsy. Since this does not require to kill the donor, some people consider in vitro meat as a more ethical alternative for regular meat.

Theoretically there no restriction on what animals can be used as potential donor for stem cells for the production of in vitro meat. Even meat from exotic or endangered species could be produced cheaply in this way. Practical considerations as availability of donor animals, and the demand for certain types of meat, will determine which meat will be produced.

There is no inherent reason why human stem cells cannot be used for the production of in vitro meat. And this worries some people. But why would this be wrong? If eating human is wrong, it’s mostly because we object to the killing of humans. Only, in vitro meat does not require the killing of the stem cell donors. Besides humans can, in contrast to other animals, give informed consent to such donation.

Republic of Lagrangia endorses classical liberalism as defended by John Stuart Mill. And a core idea of Millian liberalism is the so-called harm principle. People should be allowed to do whatever they want unless someone is harmed by such action. Given that people can voluntarily donate some tissue sample, and that no one is killed in the process; there is no way under the harm principle why cultured human meat would be wrong.

Although some people might object to the consumption of cultured human meat, we see no reason to prohibit people from voluntarily donating some of their own tissue for the production of human meat, or prohibiting people from buying such meat.