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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcard: PETA raises the steaks on artificial meat

    The story: Animal-rights advocacy group PETA announced Monday that they will award a $1 million prize to the first person to successfully develop and sell “”commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat”” by 2012. According to PETA’s Web site, “”in vitro meat production would use animal stem cells that would be placed in a medium to grow and reproduce. The result would mimic flesh and could be cooked and eaten.”” In an ironic twist, a panel of 10 PETA judges will taste the potential entries, and rank them on their similarity to actual meat.

    The response: If PETA’s real aim is to help animals rather than grab headlines, their meaty new prize offer may well be the best idea they’ve ever had. Slabs of flabby beef floating in tanks won’t grab as much attention as sexy supermodels draped in lettuce leaves, but changing the way meat is made could have huge utilitarian benefits, alleviating both human and animal suffering alike.

    Vat-meat, long a crucial plot device in bad science fiction stories, could put an end to the unnerving factory farming practices that form the foundation of modern meat production. Done right, it could alleviate the current global strain on grain that’s exacerbating famine around the third world. And it could reduce the ecological impact of meat – far more resource and carbon-intensive than veggies – on the Earth’s environment.

    That’s all well and good, but it’s not why I’m excited about the upcoming era of synthetic meat. As a content and unabashed carnivore, I’m looking forward to the potential innovations in the world of animal flesh that genetically modified in-vitro farming might bring. Just think of the exotic meatstuffs that could soon be reality: succulent panda steaks! Koala McNuggets! A jumbo-sized bucket of fried bald eagle! Everything that was once so wrong (and so expensive, difficult and illegal) to kill and consume could soon be so right. The day I can buy an ecologically friendly, cruelty-free manatee burger is the day I’ll die a happy man. So thanks, PETA, for making the wildest dreams of meat lovers everywhere a little bit closer to reality.

    Connor Mendenhall is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies and the opinions editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

    It’s funny, because artificial meat, free from nature’s deleted scenes – gristle, veins, little bone chunks that somehow made it through the factory – really shouldn’t seem icky. If we can make it, we can make it without jiggly globs of fat and Mad Cow disease.

    But the jiggly globs of fat and bone chunks should be enough to make any of us wonder why, of all the things we could possibly create artificially, we should choose meat. I like a good steak as much as the next omnivore, but it can’t compare to the other delicacies offered by nature. Synthesizing meat would be like cloning Tom Cruise – why do it when you’ve got so many better options?

    We could work on creating synthetic staple crops, like wheat and rice, to help eradicate hunger throughout the world. Or we could create synthetic corn for ethanol, so farmers could plant crops meant for eating rather than fueling SUVs. Or we could make entirely new designer foods, in much the same way that new colors, like mauve, were invented by the textile industry a couple hundred years ago. The possibilities are endless, and PETA chose meat. Gristly, bloody, jiggly meat.

    That PETA wants someone to make test tube meat also raises some interesting questions about why people are vegan and vegetarian. Ostensibly, it has something to do with eating lots of healthy fruits and veggies, the better to lead a healthy lifestyle – or does it? If the first artificial food PETA wants to see on the market is meat, does that mean they really wish they could eat all those poor animals in their ads? And Alicia Silverstone too?

    Alyson Hill is a senior majoring in classics, German studies and history.

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