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Biotech The Almighty Buck

PETA Offers X-Prize for Artificial Meat 1130

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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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:06AM (#23141316) Journal

    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?
    Are they cloning the sample or the animal? If it's just a sample piece of tissue, I would imagine most would be fine with it. If they are cloning the entire animal, it's still a physically separate organism with a central nervous system that is attached to a cerebrum. It's still feeling pain so I would think all Vegans would be opposed to it.
  • Vegans != Hive mind. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:07AM (#23141340) Homepage Journal

    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?

    Just like people who comment on slashdot, vegans have a wider variety of opinions & reasons to arrive at their dietary choice. Trying to ask them collectively what they think about something like this is useless.

    It would be like asking the slashdot crowd "would you buy Microsoft products if they open sourced them"

    For those who prefer car analogies, it would be like asking
  • by kinabrew ( 1053930 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:10AM (#23141406) Journal
    I was a vegetarian for nine years, and only started eating meat again last year, for health reasons(only chicken, since I hate the taste of all other meat)

    If meat can be grown that doesn't have a central nervous system and so can't feel pain, I would feel much better about eating what little meat I do eat.
  • by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:21AM (#23141646) Homepage
    Molly and Armitage ate in silence, while Case sawed shakily
    at his steak, reducing it to uneaten bite-sized fragments, which
    he pushed around in the rich sauce, finally abandoning the
    whole thing.
              "Jesus," Molly said, her own plate empty, "gimme that.
    You know what this costs?" She took his plate. 'They gotta
    raise a whole animal for years and then they kill it. This isn't
    vat stuff." She forked a mouthful up and chewed.
  • by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:30AM (#23141846)
    "vat-o-meat will have just as much fat and cholesterol as the real stuff."

    Actually, probably not. As I understand it, all the techniques of "culturing" cells are directed toward making all the cells the same - if there are different types of cells in the culture, it is considered a failure. So "cultured meat" would be ALL muscle cells, with no fat cells or connective tissue. Which, while pleasing the health conscious, would be a culinary disaster - picture the toughest, driest steak on the planet.

    One solution would be to culture genetically engineered fat cells with little bad cholesterol, and then grind it in with the cultured meat. So the choices would be hamburgers and sausages that probably taste worse than tofu, or real "once had hooves" meat.

    I'm thinking that prize will remain unclaimed for a long time.
  • That's a commonly held misconception. They're in favor of ethical treatment of animals, which for them precludes farming.

    It's not a commonly held misconception. Singer's weird dichotomy between "animal life = inviolable" and "newborns/the retarded/the invalid = expendable" is treated in any undergraduate ethics course.

    PETA actually offers free euthanasia for sick animals for people that can't afford to have it done by vets.

    Euthanasia which is done in a way to be painless, while a certain utilitarian philosopher sees nothing objectionable in bashing a child's head open with a rock.

  • SO.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:34AM (#23141950)

    can they alter the meat as well? less fat? more protein? extra vitamins? or can large corporations make them more addictive?

    "buy your McBurger, now with the latest McD meat profiling taste and additives"

  • by Ash Vince ( 602485 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:35AM (#23141980) Journal

    Then McDonalds, KFC etc. would have it perfected already!!
    No, probably not and for the reason I will outline below.

    Several years ago I remember reading an article in Wired title "Overcoming Yuk". I actually managed to find a link here: []

    Now since I am currently at work and do not have time to read the full artical (This is slashdot, after all) I will mention what I took from it on my first reading, not what it actually says.

    I understood it to be commentary on how the future of scientific advancement revolved around convincing the uneducated masses (that includes me with regards to biology) that certain things we found naturally repugnant were actually perfectly safe when done correctly. This is not to say I would trust companies like Monsanto with their atrocious record ( but if done by a party not driven purely by profit I can see this as being safe.

    Unfortunately companies like Monsanto do nothing to convince people like me that the results of their research are safe when they try suppress news stories regarding the possible side effects of some of their products. See the section in earlier Wikipidia link on Related legal actions.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:42AM (#23142122)
    Well, there's not only vegans, there is all kinds of veg-people, including me who is something like a octo-lacto-vegetarian (but no honey!) (former vegan). You see, it's as complicated as you say.

    BUT for the "pure" vegans, at least in my country, there is a base they all share:
    - Don't harm animals or pay people to harm animals
    - Avoid the avoidable (in other words: BE PRAGMATIC!)

    And the more sane guys understand the latter. There is just no point in not getting a specific job because you're not driving on the bus who has some material created from animal bones in it's tires. There's also no point in taking every piece of food to a laboratory and analise it.

    Most vegans are, nonetheless, sorta picky here. They would e.g., even if interested, not buy or eat it, if any animals are held anywhere to make this cloning possible (which I assume should be the case).

    In 20 years however, when not a single animal has to be used because all the genome material is already archived and all the former farm animals have already been gasified, I don't think any vegan would reject it for ethical reasons.
    But many may think of flesh as disuisting, given the fact they got use to deny it before.

    I'd eat it!
  • by OldeTimeGeek ( 725417 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:43AM (#23142132)
    If scientists are swiping there ideas from Torchwood episodes

    It seems that Torchwood's writers aren't above using other's ideas to good benefit. The creature in that episode was suspiciously like Chicken Little [] from Fred Pohl and Cyril M Kornbluth's The Space Merchants.

  • by originalhack ( 142366 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:54AM (#23142384)

    Skum-skimming wasn't hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America. Every hour you could drink from your canteen and take a salt tablet. Every two hours you could take five minutes. At sunset you turned in your coveralls and went to dinner --- more slices from Chicken Little --- and then you were on your own. You could talk, you could read, you could go into trance before the dayroom hypnoteleset, you could shop, you could pick fights, you could drive yourself crazy thinking of what might have been, you could go to sleep.
    In The Space Merchants (Frederick Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth, 1952), Chicken Little was a huge amorphous blob of growing meat that fed all of society. Much of the rest of Pohl's vision has become eerily true, consumers.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:57AM (#23142458)
    My experience leads me to believe that you are unusual among vegans, or even among people who are fashionably vegetarian for some short period of time.

    I like a nice bloody steaks more than most people, but most of the time I won't eat meet like the poster above. Its not because I care for the environment or feel bad for the animals, but if I just keep the meat intake on the lowdown I seem to spend less time with stomach sickness related events (aka Montezuma's revenge which I'm prone too) and I can keep a healthy weight.

    And more of late, I've just been avoiding eating out and buying meat products because its been getting too expensive due to inflation.

    If vat meat because viable I might eat more meat because it would be of course cheaper and hopefully less prone to e-coli related illnesses.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ( 1108067 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:58AM (#23142472) Homepage Journal

    You can have my soylent green when you pry it from my cold dead ... ummm, on second thought ...

    So, PETA's offering a million bucks. Chump change compared to what it's worth.

    Anyone remember the sci-fi story with "chicken little" - that one piece of repeatedly cloned, vat-grown chicken flesh that was made into chicken breast, leg, etc.? If they could throw in some Octopus genes, everyone'd get a drumstick!

  • Re:Interesting... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aplusjimages ( 939458 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:07AM (#23142698) Journal
    what nutritional requirements do you need from animals? I've been vegan for over 6 years now and I feel better than when I ate meat. You don't need animals to stay alive.
  • Depends... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:08AM (#23142714)
    "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?"

    It depends on the type of vegan. Many will not be okay because they are abolitionists and believe that animals should have the right to be let alone, rather than made slaves for humankind.

    Performing this kind of animal testing (which would no doubt have terrible effects on the animals) and keeping animals in labs for cloning is, to me, a terrible step in the wrong direction and is why nobody in the animal rights movement takes PETA seriously.

    And finally, there is no way this could "feed the world." We have more than enough food to feed the world right now, we just waste it using inefficient farming (factory farming of animals being hugely inefficient) and the price would be too high for those in the third world, unfortunately.
  • Re:While... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:10AM (#23144246)

    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.

    No, it's bad policy. Science refers to the theories explaining phenomena, engineering refers to using those theories in order to solve a practical problem. It is politics that determines how those predictions made by scientists/engineers are implemented.

    To put it this way, if a structure breaks this would be:

    a)A scientific problem if the scientists were wrong about how materials behave under stress.

    b)An engineering problem if it collapsed because the engineers had designed it in a way that caused the materials to break in a manner as described by the scientists.

    c)A policy problem if it was built and/or operated in a manner that engineers and scientists had predicted would cause trouble (Chernobyl would be a good example. Engineers and Scientists had predicted several problems and dangers with the design prior to the accident).

    In the case of GM biologists and ecologists has pointed out problems with how it is done for a long time. That it is still being done is not a failure of biology or even genetic engineering. The failure is that it is being applied in a manner that we know can cause trouble. I.e, it is bad policy, not bad science.
  • by raddan ( 519638 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:40AM (#23144884)
    Yes, and they are an ecological disaster [].
  • by Xiaran ( 836924 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:40AM (#23144902)
    100 years ago we didn't have the weird idea that eating an animal was a tragedy

    Who is *we* exactly?

    Jainism []
  • by pragma_x ( 644215 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:06PM (#23145556) Journal

    Okay, can someone please explain to me w(hy)tf organ, muscle, and connective tissues derived from land animals is called meat, but the same derived from aquatic creatures isn't?

    This largely due to a misinterpretation of western societiey's Christian legacy. I googled around for "fish on friday" and dug up this: []

    The real reason why christians do this is still kind of open for debate.

    In short, it comes down to a old tradition of "abstaining from eating meat during fasting". Somewhere along the line an exception for fish was made. Since fish were okay, one could (falsely) conclude from this tradition that "fish is not meat". IMO the way surf and turf prepare, behave and taste from one another reinforces this.

    As a result, that's the kind of bias injected into the debate, and how strict vs non-strict vegetarians view one another and their meal. Personally, I think it comes down to how "huggable" your would-be lunch is, but that's just me.
  • Actually... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:16PM (#23147054) Homepage Journal
    ...I thought about that myself with our cattle. If such a thing happened as the cheap cloned steaks, and made this business just silly, I would get them all neutered and let them live out their lives in the pasture (where they are right now standing belly deep in lush spring grass), unless the government kept bumping up the land taxes too much, right now that's all they do, help pay taxes and I keep a side when I need one.
  • by xappax ( 876447 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:54PM (#23147738)
    OK, let's accept your absurd premise that killing a plant is as bad as killing an animal.

    Meat animals don't just grow themselves magically, they must be fed. And they're fed a lot of plants, for a long time.

    So, when you eat some meat, you're effectively consuming many times that much plant matter, because of all the plants that were killed to feed that meat. Meat is fundamentally a very inefficient kind of food to produce.

    A vegetarian, on the other hand, eats the plant matter directly, thereby requiring the deaths of only a fraction as many plants.
  • by Joe Tie. ( 567096 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:09PM (#23147974)
    Agreed. I'm a vegetarian as well, and I too have a strong dislike of PETA. Strawman arguments, no matter how deserving the recipient might be, never do a cause any good. Hell, PETA's love of arguing from logical fallacy is one of the first things I disliked about them!
  • by glittalogik ( 837604 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:15PM (#23153764)
    Check out quinoa []. Awesome nutritional value, 12-18% protein content and AFAIK the only plant food with a near-perfect amino acid profile for human consumption. Not saying it should replace your meat intake, but it's good stuff.
  • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <> on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:33PM (#23154330)

    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.

    Well, when you consider that PETA's ideal world would ban honey, pets of any sort, circuses, seeing eye dogs for the blind, and most importantly they would totally stop all animal testing in medicine which would cause the medical field to practically grind to a halt. I wouldn't put it past them to put cells above the person they came out of, these people would rather a person died from diabetes then get insulin which was created by use of animal testing.

    Unless your name is Mary Beth Sweetland.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"