The recently released all-beef hamburger grown from a test tube has garnered varied reactions around the world — from curiosity to disgust to delight. Yet for animal rights advocates, it could be the perfect recipe for harmony between meat lovers and the animal kingdom.
PETA, known as the most extreme of animal rights organizations, has come out in favor of the cowless burger, calling it a bonus for cows around the world whose meat-inspired death the organization is opposed to.
“Besides eliminating the need to slaughter billions of animals every day, growing meat in a laboratory would end clearcutting of forests for livestock production, conserve vast amounts of water and energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for meat production by 78 to 96 percent,” PETA stated on its website.
The organization’s stance is rooted in the expectation that this form of cowless meat could one day be the sole way large-scale farming corporations produce all-beef burgers.
While that’s not likely to happen overnight, there is some financial incentive for companies to do so, according to researcher Nicholas Genovese, who in 2011 was involved in cowless beef creation at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“Animals require between 3 and 8 pounds of nutrient to make 1 pound of meat,” Genovese told Reuters in 2011. “Cultured meat doesn’t have a digestive system.”
Food researcher Hanni Rutzler told PETA’s Michelle Kretzer that one sample of cow muscle cells taken from a live cow during a biopsy could create 20,000 tons of cultured beef. Yet before companies can rake in billions on the product, they’ll have to sell it to the public — and that’s where the roadblocks come into play.
“Well, there are some pretty tasty soy — or whatever — burgers, but some people just ‘have to have’ real meat. And that’s going to be OK one day, because cultured beef is meat,” Kretzer wrote in her PETA piece.
PETA’s stance isn’t one that was created in the wake of the cowless meat burger debut. In 2008, the organization put out a reward of $1 million for the first laboratory that successfully uses chicken cells to create chickenless chicken. That particular reward extends to March 4, 2014.
In its campaign announcement, PETA offered a rational approach to the issue, accepting the fact that, regardless of the non-meat varieties available to consumers, people will continue to eat meat.
“Of course, humans don’t need to eat meat at all — vegetarians and vegans are far less likely to get heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer or become obese than are meat eaters — and a terrific array of vegetarian mock meat already exists,” the announcement states. “But because many people refuse to kick their meat addiction, PETA wants to help them switch to flesh that doesn’t cause suffering and death.”
The only question now is what name to give vegetarians who eat cowless beef — the faux-carnivores of the new food age.
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