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Biotech The Almighty Buck

PETA Offers X-Prize for Artificial Meat 1130

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the surprisingly-practical dept.
Bored MPA writes "The Times reports that PETA is to announce plans on Monday for a $1 million prize to the "first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012." PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk addressed the controversial decision by saying, "We don't mind taking uncomfortable positions if it means that fewer animals suffer." An unexpected and pragmatic move from an organization that has a strong base of support from pro-organic vegans." The question I always had about this- if they can take one sample from one animal and clone it in a vat and feed this world, will the vegans be ok with that?
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PETA Offers X-Prize for Artificial Meat

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  • While... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Icarus1919 (802533) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:09AM (#23141380)
    While I applaud the intent here, I gotta say that if people have a problem with genetically modified vegetables, then meat grown in a laboratory will DEFINITELY not appeal to them. This would be a classic case of a concept that people will find instinctively suspicious and disgusting.
  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:09AM (#23141390)
    Maybe it's just me, but I think that movements such as PETA are a sign of deep issues within our society. We have people who are so completely satiated and content with their lives, that they are willing to spend vast amounts of their time, effort, and money, in order to achieve something so truly inane.

    We have hunger, diseases, war... and all these people want to do is to get everybody to stop eating animals. Considering that it was likely the consumption of large amounts of animal protein that allowed humanity to evolve rather rapidly in the last stage of our evolution, I find PETA's goals rather ironic.
  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:09AM (#23141392)
    It depends on why they're vegan. If it is to stop animal cruelty, then vat-o-meat should be fine. If it for health reasons, then vat-o-meat will have just as much fat and cholesterol as the real stuff.
  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:11AM (#23141432) Homepage Journal
    While it is laudable that more companies are sponsoring prize competitions, greater care must be taken when specifying things like "cost" or, as in the case of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize [progressiv...xprize.org] being "production capable", etc. That's why in my specification of the O-Prize [geocities.com], which substitutes vegan omega-3 oils for fish oils, I avoided specifying those things. Rather, I just guaranteed a monthly market of a certain dollar amount, with sales going to the lowest bidder:

    Introduction

    The O-Prize is designed to realize the great potential of oil from algae [unh.edu] with the lowest risk over the shortest time.

    The potential of algae oil is to, in stages:

    1) Enhance neurological development via nutritional supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and,
    2) Provide an abundant renewable source of green or environmentally friendly fuel oil.

    A fixed dollar amount is withdrawn from the prize fund each month to purchase algae oil from the lowest price source(s) certified for the target market. That quantity of algae oil is then resold to the target market and the funds are added to the prize fund. When the lowest price certified sources can compete with the target market, that stage of the O-Prize has finished.

    The O-Prize is designed to let algae cultivation techniques mature in two stages, building both technology and popular support for both environmentally friendly and humanitarian purposes.
  • Probably not ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:14AM (#23141482) Homepage
    "The question I always had about this- if they can take one sample from one animal and clone it in a vat and feed this world, will the vegans be ok with that?"

    They're not very rational. They'll probably demand you release the sample from its captivity.

    All kidding aside, I'm a veggie myself and have a hard time being sympathetic to the vegan cause -- it's just so unrealistic.

    Free farm animals will only result in the demise of the particular species ... ever seen a farm pig or a farm cow in the wild?

    Current biological thinking is that domesticated animals were drawn into human habitat because their own habitat was taken over by more fit animals. Humans simply domesticated these animals, but otherwise they wouldn't have stood a chance in the wild. Following this reasoning, releasing farm animals would just condemn them to starvation, a horrible death.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm strongly opposed to using farm animals as an industrial product, as this is what is common in bioindustry at the moment, but we're in symbiosis with these species ... freeing them is not the answer. Treating them well and with respect is.
  • by clonan (64380) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:16AM (#23141516)
    If it were viable right NOW there would be no need for the X-prize.

    This sort of contest provide direction and potentially takes some of the sting out of development.

    The hope is that by 2012 a process will become available that McDonald's, KFC and the others can perfect.

    It should be very exciting!
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:16AM (#23141522) Homepage
    I think it's highly ironic that certain supporters of PETA, quick to condemn the taking of innocent animal life, get riled up when they see people seeking to outlaw abortion. There's this weird paradox in the animal rights movement, especially in the work of Peter Singer, that animal life is elevated to sacredness but certain human lives are lowered to complete expendability.
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:17AM (#23141542) Homepage Journal

    But, Ms. Newkirk said, the decision to sponsor a prize caused "a near civil war in our office," since so many PETA members are repulsed by the thought of eating animal tissue, even if no animals are killed.
    I think you mean "holy war".

    Other than that, yeah, good show.. I'm a big fan of growing food in vats instead of animals on grain and parts of other animals.

    For a start, it makes real permanent space stations all that more feasible.
  • Why eat meat? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:21AM (#23141636)
    Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. [michaelpollan.com]

    That seems to be the optimal human diet, summed up nicely in seven words. That's the main reason I'm a vegetarian. As I went through my biology coursework in college, I realized that eating red meat wasn't great for me. From there, I eventually cut out other meat. Now as I look around my cubicle farm of IT staff, I'm one of the few thin and fit people around.

    The other reason not to eat so much meat is economic and environmental. It's inefficient. When you convert sunlight to meat, it has to go through a plant phase, and you end up having to cultivate a lot of grain to make a little meat. It's simple physics, and difficult to argue against (the best I've heard is that you can graze animals on land not useful for much else).

    Vat grown meat might help with the latter issue, but probably won't help much with the first one. Eating lots of meat likely isn't the most healthy option for humans. It's not inherently bad, but causes health issues in the quantities Americans seem to eat it.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:25AM (#23141742) Journal
    Agreed with the sibling post. I've known vegetarians who were vegetarians for health reasons, but never vegans who were vegan for health reasons...Lot of the vegans I know won't eat anything that was remotely an animal byproduct, to the point of only eating certain M&M's because one of the dyes isn't completely animal-free.

    Most people just don't rank their health that highly. I am glad to see PETA finally doing something productive however...If your real goal is to prevent animal suffering, then this is actually a good method.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by techpawn (969834) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:27AM (#23141790) Journal
    What's so Odd about it? I don't eat red meat sans maybe Ostrich every blue moon. My diet is very Fish, Grain, and Veggie based and THAT gets me strange looks.
    Even so, people feel the need to be apologetic when they order a stake if we go to dinner. My response is: "It's your body. Put into it what you what. Follow my example if you want, or don't. It's not MY place to force you to eat healthy"
    If you try to force someone to see the world your way that will only get them to look away from it.

    I'm ashamed that health and eco conscious people where more forceful in their views in the past making it harder for the people of today to be taken seriously.
  • A real question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ciaohound (118419) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:27AM (#23141796)
    Back in January, Hallmark Meat Packing got caught slaughtering sick animals, resulting in the largest meat recall in US history. Some of the animals slaughtered couldn't stand on their own feet.

    What will we test to determine "fit to consume" when meat is grown in a vat?
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:28AM (#23141804) Journal
    That's a commonly held misconception. They're in favor of ethical treatment of animals, which for them precludes farming. PETA actually offers free euthanasia for sick animals for people that can't afford to have it done by vets.

    As for abortion, it's highly ironic that many of those who get riled up by killing of a pre-human lump of cells are just fine with their government getting into a non-defensive war and driving up food prices around the world through it's subsidy of corn based ethanol. There's this weird paradox in the pro-life movement that unborn life is elevated to sacredness but actual humans living on earth already who have memories and consciousness can be chucked aside without protest.
  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma ... inus threevowels> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:28AM (#23141822) Homepage
    We have hunger, diseases, war... and all these people want to do is to get everybody to stop eating animals. Considering that it was likely the consumption of large amounts of animal protein that allowed humanity to evolve rather rapidly in the last stage of our evolution, I find PETA's goals rather ironic.

    First of all I believe one of PETA's tenets is the actually very convincing belief that by stopping people from eating meat you'll solve a lot of world hunger problems. Secondly I'm not sure about your consumption of large amount of animal protein thesis; do you have a citation?

    Thirdly, I don't think it's fair to say that just because more important problems exist PETA shouldn't work on what they consider a problem. I mean, hunger, diseases and war are infinitely more important issues than open source, but there are plenty of people and organizations who focus on open source, and I don't think most people would find that this is somehow the wrong thing to do.
  • yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onemorehour (162028) * on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:29AM (#23141838)
    As a vegan, I can at least speak for myself: the answer is definitely "yes."

    Veganism is neither irrational nor difficult to understand; if you're making an animal suffer unnecessarily, vegans are against it. It's amazing to me how such a simple position seems to confuse people.
  • Re:While... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:35AM (#23141966) Journal
    Jesus, it's not about being a liberal. The problem with GM plants is that they still throw out a bunch of pollen, and pollute existing seed lines. It's just bad science.

    When the GM meat gets out of the tank and starts humping un-gm'd cows, I'll have problems with it. Otherwise, hell, if it tastes good, I'm there.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:35AM (#23141972) Journal
    You know, we evolved canine teeth for a reason. Do you really think it's healthy not to use them?
  • by Gription (1006467) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:37AM (#23142020)
    Instead of a movie they need to watch cable. Force them to watch the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet nature shows.

    If they are at all awake they will either realize that the whole world is designed around the idea of one thing eating another. (Or they might decide that God screwed up as they watch the lion take down that gazelle...)

    Remember if they weren't intended to be eaten they wouldn't have been made out of meat!
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jodaxia (312456) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:40AM (#23142076)
    Umm.. M&Ms are make of MILK chocolate. Last time I checked, milk isn't made in petri dishes.
  • by jasen666 (88727) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:42AM (#23142112)
    I can't wait for the cloned meat. Tasty steak, but never having been exposed to parasites, virus, pesticides, herbicides, etc. Also no fat, gristle, tendons, blood vessels or bones to worry about. Although I suppose if they can engineer cloned muscle cell, they can clone fat cells in that meat as well if they wanted, for flavor.
    And if they can do this for seafood? Cloned lobster and crab meat? (Swordfish steaks.. nomnomnom.) Once in full production, the prices would likely be much cheaper than ocean caught meat. And no worries about pollution or mercury poisoning.
    It would be great for wild animal populations, although bad for farmers and fisherman.
  • Re:yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DuranteAlighieri (1204994) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:47AM (#23142226)
    Agreed. I'm not a vegan (I eat meat from certifiably "happy" animals) but it's a perfectly understandable position. The only rational conclusion is that people who find veganism confusing are simply looking for a reason to dismiss it.
  • Re:yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onemorehour (162028) * on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:56AM (#23142450)

    So, if an animal dies of old age, vegans wouldn't mind eating it? If a cow gives milk without suffering, vegans will drink the milk?
    I can only speak for myself, but the quick answers are "yes, of course, but... why?" to the first, and "yes, of course, but saying that there's no suffering involved might mean a rather complicated situation."

    I'm not a vegan so please set me straight if I'm wrong, but I thought that vegans disprove of anything coming from animals (meat, milk, eggs), regardless if the animal suffered or not.
    I'm happy to respond, and I appreciate that you're going out on a limb and seem honest and genuinely interested. I can assure you that vegans, at least in theory, only disapprove of animals suffering unnecessarily. They might also take a slightly broader view of what animal suffering means than others do.

    Of course, that said, some vegans are militant and irrational. But please don't judge veganism by their actions.

    If you're interested in a rational, intelligent approach to why we might care about animal suffering, check out Peter Singer's "Practical Ethics."
  • by aplusjimages (939458) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:01AM (#23142560) Journal

    Remember if they weren't intended to be eaten they wouldn't have been made out of meat!
    Aren't you made of meat? Also not all creatures are designed to eat meat. And factory farming is far from natural.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by aplusjimages (939458) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:13AM (#23142812) Journal
    compare your canine teeth to that of a dog and tell me they are the same thing. Also how often do you use it to chew meat. I pretty sure you are like everyone else and chew your meat in the back of your mouth where your molars are.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:22AM (#23143082)
    That's not the point. Most monkeys also have canine teeth. Most monkeys are also strict vegetarians or even vegans (gorillas).

    Saying: "you have canine teeth so you must eat meat" is the same as saying "you have a gun so you must kill people." I still think it's healthier not killing people, even if you do have a gun.

  • by Dare nMc (468959) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:23AM (#23143098)

    It's not the same.

    All vegan's are vegetarians therefore a joke about a vegetarian would apply to all vegans.
    most vegetarians are not vegans so a joke about vegans may not apply.
  • easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:37AM (#23143482) Homepage Journal
    because they taste good and we evolved to eat them

    the only reason eating animals is a problem is suddenly because we evolved higher mental faculties like empathy, morality

    luckily, we also developed science, which will soon give us meat vats, and we can go on with our carnivorous delights and not a single animal need be killed anymore

    but if you try to ask people to give up meat just because the animals suffer, you have just as much success asking people to stop having sex because of disease and overpopulation

    it is a compulsion, hard wired into us. do not underestimate it. it is deeper and stronger this compulsion than our higher faculties

    so much as birth control and penicillin sidesteps the issue of disease and too many babies as byproduct of our love of sex, so will meat vats sidestep the issue of cruelty and our love of meat

    but you are really insane if you think a nice morality lecture will stop people from eating meat just because its cruel. as if a "just say no to sex" because of disease and overpopulation approach would work
  • by RemoteSojourner (973910) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:38AM (#23143504)
    There are quite a few cultures which have been vegetarians since centuries. i come from one such culture. Nobody in my family has ever tasted anything for which you have to kill an animal and we are perfectly healthy. See this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarian [wikipedia.org] There are always alternate sources available and fortunately our food habits include all of them. As far as why you should be a vegetarian, see the logetivity section. Also the supplement you mentioned is more in fish than in meat so ppl who eat no meat and chicken and only eat fish will be healthier.
  • Nice idea, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Duck of Death (189129) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:38AM (#23143510)

    I've often had the same sort of idea - if a cow can take grass, water and energy and make steaks, why shouldn't we be able to do the same thing? Recently, however, I've decided that even if they figured out how to do it tomorrow, it would not be to our benefit. It would end up being like baby formula - a product that's been around for decades, keeps getting tweaked to add this or that nutrient or remove or reduce undesirable components, yet still can't compare to breast milk. Or it will end up being like margarine, touted for decades as healthier than butter until they discovered that trans fats in the margarine were much worse for you than the saturated fats in the butter.

    If they could grow meat, they would be unable to resist the temptation to fiddle with it. Rather that simply duplicate the meat from a grass fed, non-corn finished animal, they would reduce the cholesterol, boost the omega-3's (or whatever omega is good for you right now), add beta-carotene, and fortify it with vitamin C and calcium ("a full day's supply in every burger"). Then, ten years later, there will be a report that eating too much factory meat causes liver failure. The food scientists will tweak the recipe, declare it safe and healthy and we're off to the races again.

    I do think they'll figure out how to do it (the cow can do it, after all). I just think the food industry has a very consistent record that demonstrates their inability to improve on or even match what mother nature can do, despite all their claims that they can.

    DD

  • Torture? Murder? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:40AM (#23143558) Journal
    Torturing animals doesn't serve a purpose. Killing them for the purpose of nourishment and consumption does.

    Yes, perhaps it's in some ways distasteful, but - being omnivores - it's also part of our natural biological process. I'm sure this will cue the rant about vegetable and pill-based alternatives, but it's still not the way we're built to function.

    You can't compare murdering somebody to the consumption of a food animal. It's not the same thing. And before you get into the "would killing be OK if we eat each other," that's also a no, as - except in cases of starvation - most mammals don't eat their own species either, and in many cases they don't kill each other except under a certain set of rules (territory, etc).
  • by athdemo (1153305) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:40AM (#23143566)
    Naturally speaking, killing an animal is VERY different from killing a human. We kill animals to survive as a species, we don't kill each other for that same purpose.
  • by ZeroPly (881915) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:42AM (#23143600)
    So, every single vegan you've met would be happy to eat cloned meat provided there was no animal involved.

    Your logic is flawed. If methadone is a safer alternative to heroin, the fact that I do not use heroin does not automatically imply that I use methadone.

    From an ethical viewpoint, not eating meat (or cloned meat) is at least as good as eating cloned meat. Thus a vegan would have the choice of eating cloned meat or continuing their current diet. The existence of cloned meat does not provide them any obligation to actually consume it.

  • Re:Interesting... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:42AM (#23143608)
    If humans have canine teeth for the (sole) purpose of eating flesh, why do gorillas, closely-related herbivores, also have them?
    http://images.encarta.msn.com/xrefmedia/zencmed/targets/illus/ilt/T012801A.gif

    I doubt your argument's merit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:45AM (#23143680)
    Humans and many animals need meat as much as air. It's a simple biological fact.

    Nope. Rubbish. You could argue that humans need *animal protein* or equivalent synthetics. But not meat. You can be perfectly healthy on a Vegeterian diet which includes dairy products but no flesh (red meat, polutry or fish etc.) (I did this for 10 years with no supplements etc. and cycled 100's of miles and was very healthy). The problems occur with Vegan diets where you eliminate all animal products.
    However, one of my colleagues who is vegan says that you don't need supplements; there are specific types of nuts and stuff which contain the relevant nutrients. He seems perfectly healthy.

    Note that I have no moral axe to grind here since I now eat quite a lot of meat and enjoy it.

    As for your statement that 'there is no meat replacement' surely the whole point of this prize is to grow something in the lab which is nutritionally and taste equivalent to meat? And if they suceed, there *will* be a full 'meat replacement'
  • by hador_nyc (903322) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:46AM (#23143686) Homepage
    Humans are omnivores. It's also natural for us to kill and to eat other animals; say like a bear.

    So, to answer your question, we are capable of not killing to eat, but you have to make the argument as to why. Thus far, I haven't been convinced of why we shouldn't eat meat; eat less of it, sure, but no meat entirely, not yet.

    Also, it's hard to make the case that killing a human and killing a animal is the same thing. I'm not particularly religious, nor am I Christian, but my objection to that is more akin to what Silverback Gorilla's, male lions, and other animals do when they take over a group. They kill the infants of the former group leader. Most people for a variety of reasons don't consider animals, let alone other humans, "human". That is the basis for eugenics. While I agree that is reprehensible, it's still a fact. I think we have a lot of work to convince all people that all humans are "human," before your goal of equating animals with humans can be achieved. Still, I still can't see why we shouldn't eat cows, chickens, and things. I grew up near a farm, and maybe that's why I just don't see it; no matter how much I value human life.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:47AM (#23143720) Homepage Journal
    You don't chew with canines - you tear stuff apart. I use my canines every time I eat chicken off the bone, or ribs, or even some fruit and veggies.

    *RIP-SNARL-GNASH-TEAR-GRRR*

    Another dead carrot...
  • by Gription (1006467) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:56AM (#23143944)
    I would like to popularize a term:
    "Civilized to death"

    "Civilized" is an illusion. It is a consensual illusionary construct of your social conditioning. We do need some sort of social structure so we can all get along, but when you start to think that there is some innate 'higher truth' in your view of what is civilized then you are stepping into fantasy world.

    100 years ago we didn't have the weird idea that eating an animal was a tragedy. We weren't less civilized then either. (Watch some TV. After that if you still think we were less 'civilized' then you need to get off your high horse so you can be trampled...) We just had different social norms and we weren't so divorced from our food supply.
  • by nostriluu (138310) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:19AM (#23144396) Homepage
    I totally agree with you. I also consider slavery and torture to be completely natural. How about you?

    Totally unnatural - sending spaceships to the moon, or food cultivation (that habit that creates reliable food sources so you don't need handy scavengers like chickens and pigs, until we mass produced animal farming with buildings full of thousands of creatures packed in shit).

    Those shows you are watching are highlighting certain aspects of animal existence. How about you go to the zoo and watch how the monkeys act naturally all day, and do a report on how we should be acting. Or look in an aquarium at the natural creatures and tell us how we should be acting, and emulate it yourself.

    Sorry, I just find people who use your kind of logic a bit simple, but I guess if you want to justify your lifestyle and continue stuffing dead animals in your mouth three times a day, backed by completely natural factory farms and a host of ghouls who enjoy working in meat packing plants (I've known a couple of them) then just do it.

    Personally (and I know you couldn't care less ;)) I stopped eating meat 8 years ago because I got bored of it. There is a whole world of other foods to explore. I also find the non thinking attitude about food to be disturbing, like I was a beef, chicken, or pork eating automaton. All the potential environmental, ethical and health reasons are just nifty bonuses to me, and I really think if we freed all the cows, chickens and pigs it would quite annoying.

  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by snarfies (115214) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:32AM (#23144718) Homepage
    In other words, you act like a smug shitcock when somebody takes the time out to try to make you a little more comfortable.
  • by CowboyNealOption (1262194) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:37AM (#23144808) Journal
    Screw that; I want photosynthesis! Though not as a primary means of generating food, it would make a cool backup source of energy. Plus being green would be cool.
  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:42AM (#23144932) Homepage Journal
    The reason I don't eat meat is because of the way food animals are treated while they are alive - not because they are animals. There are plenty of vegetarians who take this stance.

    I recommend any of the documentaries on the farming process in america.

    If meat-in-a-vat became economically feasible, there are plenty of vegetarians who would eat it.

    (details: it is easier for me, personally, to say "no meat" than to be picky about which meat I'm eating and where it is from, etc. It's just the easy line for me to draw)
  • Animal apocalypse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by williamhb (758070) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:45AM (#23145004) Journal
    It's not so mad to compare it to those dystopian futures like Soylent Green: PETA seem to be under the strange impression that if artificially grown meat was invented then all the farmers in the world would set their cows and chickens free to live wild with a cheer and a wave. In economic reality, however, if cheap artificial meat was invented, more and more farmers would very quickly send all their cattle to be slaughtered as no longer economic to maintain. It would be the animal apocalypse.
  • by Rei (128717) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:49AM (#23145110) Homepage
    Oy, where to start with this one?

    If they are at all awake they will either realize that the whole world is designed around the idea of one thing eating another.

    1) Simply untrue. By your logic, autotrophs don't exist. Unless you call absorbing light, hydrogen sulfide, methane, or whatnot "one thing eating another".
    2) Moral equivalency. You are declaring eating any form of life as equivalent to any other. The ~99%** of people who find the concept of raising humans for meat abhorrent would disagree with you.

    ** -- I did specify 99% because on occasion, I have found people who find nothing wrong with this. Thankfully, they're rare.

    Let's focus a little more on #2. What is so abhorrent about eating other humans to most people? Usually, it's some variant on the destruction of the self. Call it a soul, call it a conscience, self-awareness, whatever you will. Raising a sentient being and deliberately killing them for their meat when you don't need to is generally seen as abhorrent.

    So, what's sentience? One ancient standard is the ability to reflect on one's own thoughts. Well, that standard certainly doesn't hold up as an argument against eating meat now that we know that even rats do that [sciencedirect.com]. So what's the cutoff point? Problem solving or reasoning ability? Chimps, depending on the task, often have the reasoning ability of a 4-6 year old. Parrots, 2-6 year old, depending on the task. Pigs, same general range. None of them have anywhere near the sort of *communication* skill that humans have, but communication is hardly a reason not to eat something, now isn't it?

    From my perspective, the simpler the mind, the less of a moral issue there is. Sure, even plants have at least some forms of stimulus response; every cell in existence does. But none of it approaches the complexity in external stimulus-processing as a neural net. A change in light may cause guard cells to open or close a stoma, but you're just looking at a predictable biochemical cascade. That stoma will never, for example, "learn" not to keep opening and closing if you shine a flashlight on and off at it. It is this spark of intelligence in animals, particularly higher animals, that I find tragic to snuff out needlessly.

    In a choice between the life of a pig and a human, which do I side with? The human, undeniably, indisputably, every last time. I don't fault in the least, for example, innuit cultures that traditionally survived on sealing; what choice, exactly, do they have? But in this world, I have all of the choices under the sun. I can choose to eat whatever the heck I want. Having that choice, I eat a vegetarian diet.

    Of course, I know very well that not everyone will agree with me on this. But that's hardly the only reason. Most people have no clue how extreme of an impact eating meat has on the environment. A staggering, mind-boggling big [sciencedirect.com] impact. 1/3 of the world's non-ice-covered land is dedicated, directly or indirectly, to growing meat. Despite programs to abate it, we're losing 1,250 square miles of rainforest in Brazil per month to cattle land. Meat growing releases more greenhouse gasses than transportation (and no, we're not just talking about methane from ruminants; the energy aspect is the big portion, since it takes many pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat), plus huge amounts of water pollution (3/4 of the water pollution in the US, for example), as well as breeding antibiotic resistance.
  • by pragma_x (644215) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:50AM (#23145150) Journal
    I am not a dietitian.

    I know a lot of fat vegans. I don't know how they do it, they must trough all day on their bean and hummus pittas. A lot of the meat eaters are reasonable weights on the other hand.


    That's not all that shocking seeing as how the latest culprits of the "american obesity epidemic" are refined sugar and starch. Second to that are hydrogenated oils, which are made from vegetable products and can be best thought of as a form of "synthetic lard" since it fills the same role in cooking.

    In short: calories and fats with no vitamins and/or minerals (salt doesn't count) are the real culprit here. Hummus and pita on the other hand still has some rudimentary nutritional value to it thanks to the chick peas and olive oil.

    So you can still be a strict vegetarian and develop metabolic syndrome. Odds are your tubby vegan friends are having plenty of doritos and pepsi along with their beans and rice, or think that "corn-on-the-cob, biscuits, rice and potatoes" is a well balanced meal.
  • by Rei (128717) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:00PM (#23145376) Homepage
    Look, even as a vegetarian, I have a lot of big problems with PETA, but that's just ridiculous. You're not destroying a thinking being or causing incredible environmental damage (like eating meat does -- the scale is truly staggering. See my later post [slashdot.org] for details). Do you think PETA feels that if you surgically remove someone's injured spleen, you're committing some tragedy because you're "killing living animal cells"? Give me a break.

    Kudos to PETA for offering this prize. It's one of the first reasonable things I've ever seen to come out of that organization. I might not even have gone vegetarian had this existed at the time; I would have just switched. Not sure I'd eat vat meat now, as I've grown accustomed to a vegetarian diet and see no reason to switch back, mind you.
  • Re:easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bombula (670389) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:11PM (#23145636)
    There's nothing morally wrong with eating meat. The moral problems are with how the meat is grown. Growing meat in a vat would be nice, but what PETA ignores is that if this was the only way we ever farmed meat, then billions of creatures would never even have the privilege of existing in the first place.

    The real moral issue is about suffering: do farmed animals suffer while they live or suffer while they die? If so, then farming is immoral. If not, well, then it's hard to argue farming is immoral. All things die. It may be morally wrong for humans to decide when an animal should die, but that's a much harder issue to resolve. What is easy to resolve is that animals should live comfortable, pleasant, healthy, hygenic lives and then be slaughtered instantly and painlessly without any prior fear or anxiety. This is readily achievable, though it is more expensive than growing animals in filthy boxes and pumping them full of drugs. Farmed in this way, it's pretty difficult to categorically condemn livestock agriculture.

  • We're omnivores (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deesine (722173) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:36PM (#23146210)
    deal with it.
  • by xaxa (988988) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:42PM (#23146356)
    There's probably peer-reviewed science saying the opposite though (I've read it in a journal, but I don't know when or where).

    As with all these things, a balanced diet seems the best idea -- and a large amount of soy isn't balanced, just as the stereotypical American diet isn't balanced. Unfortunately, there are people who go crazy and decide to feed very young children soy milk, soy baby food, etc instead of a decent diet, just like there are mums that give their kids cola in a bottle.
  • by morari (1080535) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:57PM (#23146690) Journal
    You can argue that the food chain exists for that reason, and that might debunk a lot of teenage girls who think that not eating cute critters is a good way of being different among their highschool class. However, the problem that many vegans have is not that animals are consumed, but that they are literally tortured in the modern commercial farm.

    No creature deserves to be cooped up a small cage, kept in filth, injected with cocktails of growth hormones, and then thoughtlessly killed before one another. That's not what the food chain dictates in the least bit. n fact, I believe that if prior to eating, everyone had to personally do that (or even just watch it), that they make think differently as well. This isn't going out into the forest and swiftly killing a single creature now and then. No one quietly gives thanks to the animals that die to keep us going, and then we waste copious amounts of "the product" on top of it.

    If you have to eat meat (which you really don't), then at least buy organic and look for truly free range meat. Don't just take labels at face value, because they are deceptive. Of better yet, raise or hunt for your own food. Not only will it be of better quality, but you'll know exactly what goes into it.

  • by gnuman99 (746007) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:27PM (#23147296)
    Liver stores *6 year supply* of Vitamin B12. And it is not from animal meat but bacteria. Animals just store their own supply and we "eat it" (the supply) while eating the animals. Today, all of the B12 you get at a stores is made from bacteria cultures. And since your body retains lots of it, you don't need to eat the supplement all the time. Just once a week, a month or whatever. You can get those 1000mcg pills and take once a month and never have any problems. That way you'll get more B12 than meat eating people anyway.

    From wikipedia:

    "Vitamin B-12 cannot be made by plants or animals[5] as only bacteria have the enzymes required for its synthesis"

    "The total amount of vitamin B-12 stored in body is about 2,000-5,000 mcg in adults. Around 80% of this is stored in the liver[2]. 0.1 % of this is lost per day by secretions into the gut as not all these secretions are reabsorbed. How fast B-12 levels change depends on the balance between how much B-12 is obtained from the diet, how much is secreted and how much is absorbed. B-12 deficiency may arise in a year if initial stores are low and genetic factors unfavourable or may not appear for decades."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12

    As a side node, I'm not a vegan. But B12 deficiency takes *years*, and does not happen overnight because you stopped eating meat. Hell, you can eat termites or even dirt with B12 bacteria and you'll get enough B12.

    Freaking FUD about stupid B12.
  • by nostriluu (138310) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:38PM (#23147486) Homepage
    There is a very real difference between the nervous system and emotional capacity of an animal versus a plant. If you are saying there is no difference, then you are saying we should all exist in a vegetative state, rather than expanding on our nervous system and emotional capacity. I do think it technically diminishes people collectively to permit such mass suffering for unnecessary reasons. But I am not making the ethical argument.

    And when I say unnecessary, I mean animals used to be necessary to ensure adequate food availability, if you had some pigs, goats or chickens wandering around, or herd animals nearby it was good for survival. But it's not required any more, and we've mass produced animal farming so much, people have grown lazy and insist on meat three times a day, without thinking about it. For no reason.

    And there is a very real difference between the environmental costs and impact of animal vs plant farming. But I'm not really emphasizing the environmental impact.

    Many people would be much healthier if they ate less meat. But, as a kind of positivist nihilist, I don't think I'm better. That's your defensive meat-eater's reaction, not my problem, though some hardcore vegans may be making a point that the above reasons are bad for the planet, etc, etc, but it's not my argument.

    As I said, I just find the passive consumption of too much meat to be boring and thoughtless. I doubt it makes any difference in anyone's quality of life, except for some vague feelings of entitlement. I think it's perfectly reasonable to eat meat occasionally, but constantly, c'mon.

  • by khallow (566160) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:34PM (#23148422)
    As I see it, there's an implied contract between humans and the plants and animals we use: "If you feed us, we'll take care of you and help you propagate," I think this is important because in the future, it can affect the reputation of our descendants. This may seem odd given that the human race is currently responsible for the extinction of a considerable number of species each year. However, we have no relationship with those species other than that some of them were in our way. But with cattle and corn, we've been working with these species for many thousands of years. How will it look if someone asks us what happened to our last interspecies cooperation and we have to say that the other guys went extinct due to us?

    Having said that, it's clear that virtually all organisms of these species have too narrow a genetic basis and are too specialized as a food animal to form a viable species in the wild. My take is that we should make an attempt to take the more viable strains, maybe work on them a little so that they can survive better in the wild, and release them into a small number of controlled regions. If the species does well, then eventually they would be treated as a native animal and allowed to propagate unfettered. If they die off, then it's too bad, we made a good faith effort.

  • by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Monday April 21, 2008 @04:13PM (#23149946) Homepage
    Factory farming is a natural progression of human culture. We analyze our problems (steak is expensive and difficult to provide on a larger scale). We engineer and deploy solutions (farming).

    Without agriculture, humans would never have developped any modern science. Only scientific applications to agriculture freed up enough cultural labor to apply science outside the realm of feeding everyone.

    We ate meat before agriculture, and we eat meat now. And every last one of the vegans posting here (and even Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco too) would also eat meat if it were a choice between starving or eating meat.

    Is factory farming so morally bankrupt that it cannot be a part of our culture without inordinate cruelty? What if the cows lived as nice a life as any cow could live. Free from predation, largely free from disease, but they still existed to be humanely euthanized at a slaughter house and for food and non-food products for humans? Would it be OK then?

    The real issue with stances PETA takes is that they completely ignore the fact that only because of the success of agricultural science do we have a world in which tens of millions of dollars a year are donated to corporate campaign activists who seek to attack the very science that created the world in which they protest.
  • by Rei (128717) on Monday April 21, 2008 @06:39PM (#23152006) Homepage
    I personally consume over 600grams of protein per day

    Are you trying to destroy your kidneys, or is this just a side effect of some other goal? That's an obscene amount of protein, even for bodybuilding. Whatever happened to "1 gram per pound"? If you're eating that much protein, you're getting your calories from protein. Which means huge levels of amino acids to be broken down. Amine groups contain nitrogen, which must be excreted as urea. This is hard on your kidneys. ~200g is shown to only be damaging to your kidneys if there are preexisting problems, but that's three times that already "high" number. You probably have ketoacidosis, too. With that mostly coming from meat, I can't imagine your cholesterol and saturated fat intake.

    So, now, tell me how, without resorting to a highly processed food powder, do I get that much protein without going over 70 grams of carbs per day?

    Off the top of my head, gluten would do it. Most pollens would as well. But again, are you trying to destroy your kidneys? Or, for that matter, your bones [nutraingredients.com]? Your blood vessels and heart? [newser.com] Trying to get colon cancer [consumeraffairs.com], perhaps? That is simply not healthy.

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