A new scientist article today discusses the early stage research producing meat within a lab.
I personally think the time-frames are far far too ambitious. I also find myself pondering the consequences of its eventual success, as I have no doubt it will be successful one day.
In the first instance, what is the moral stance on killing animals for food?
I am a big advocate of ethical farming practises where the animals are kept in free-range conditions and have a relatively good lifestyle. I am also an advocate of humane slaughter and purchasing meat from local farms (something that is very difficult in my current location, in the UK it was far easier to do and I will be returning to that practise). I do not think that killing animals is inherently wrong or immoral, although a duty of care would demand that we are careful to ensure the least amount of suffering is inflicted.
Are there other options?
We have the option of feeding ourselves healthily on a vegetarian diet, but with some sacrifice at the individual level. It is not a choice for those with sensitive stomach conditions. Nevertheless, many people are vegetarian for ethical reasons and there are some possible health benefits. In the future it seems there will be an additional option in synthetic meat that might well offer healthier alternatives to the meat most people can access today.
Is synthetic meat any more ethical than raising animals to slaughter?
At present, the cells have to be obtained from animals, as does the "food" the cells are given (fetal calf serum). So, while the quantity of animals slaughtered may be lessened, it still involves animal slaughter. I am not sure there is a clear cut moral superiority in place here. Reduction of animals being slaughtered, yes, but still slaughter.
I am unsure. The prospect of wiping out animal farming and the resultant loss of livelihoods and farms is quite daunting. But a way of life is not necessarily a reason to continue immoral acts, if they are indeed immoral, and farming does damage the natural landscape. What niggles at me more is the loss of diversity farming has given us in the pig, sheep, cattle, chicken etc breeds we have today and the joy it can be to keep such animals and be in touch with where our food comes from. I have kept livestock, I have grown my own food, and there really is nothing in comparison to that sense of achievement in doing so, nor the quality of the food produced. I have not hunted animals but I can see how that might achieve the same sense of accomplishment. So maybe I simply have an attachment to a the way of life and a certain skill set that is grounded in emotion rather than reason. I would certainly be sorry to see it disappear. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the future.
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!