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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

PETA and Tube Meat

If you're unfamiliar with the term "tube meat", which is short for "test tube meat", which is a layman's term for "in vitro meat" - here's the rundown on this scientific breakthrough which has been going on for about 100 years:

It all starts with one mad scientist named Dr. Alexi Carrel. Okay, maybe not "mad" as much as "Nobel laureate" - but the experiment that started the whole thing must have seemed crazy at the time, back in 1908. He took a piece of embryonic chicken heart and put it in a nutrient broth. That's it. The real craziness was that the heart cells didn't die - they multiplied. It doubled in size every day, never aging or dying off, just expanding and filling the container. When the container was full, Carrel would remove a small piece of the mass, place it in a new container, and the process would resume. It continued for 36 years, up until Carrel's death in 1944.

Unfortunately, after the doctor's death, the chicken heart tissue was improperly cared for by some lab assistant and it died. Attempts have been made to recreate the experiment, but to little success. Still, it has inspired many ideas about the potential of such a setup.

Winston Churchill once said in 1932, "We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."

The 1953 sci-fi novel "The Space Merchants" features the idea that most of the world's meat supply comes from a giant chicken heart named Chicken Little that gets harvested every day as it grows and fills its concrete vault.

As we fast-forward to the present and our more-advanced technology, we are getting more advanced with our methods of harvesting meat without the rest of the animal. Scientists are figuring out more about the harvesting of meat tissue, the conditions for growing it, and tons of speculation about whether or not it can become commercially available at competitive prices. Also, there is much speculation regarding the taste and how the experiment can be modified to create "new flavors" and such.

So with all of this prospect of meat-eating and processed flesh, why is it that the animal-rights group PETA is ENDORSING the Tube Meat program and offering $1 MILLION to anyone who can make it commercially available?

That's right. A million dollars is the prize money up for grabs directly from the "Animals Are Not Ours to Eat" gestapo just for making this in vitro meat product commercially available. The whole situation completely baffles me, because from every standpoint, PETA should be against tube meat. After hitting myself on the head with a blunt object for a few minutes, I was able to see things from PETA's often-insane perspective and there are no reasons I can find why they would be on-board with this scientific breakthrough.

1) First of all, harvesting tissue for the tube meat processing requires the death of an animal. It's possible to use fertilized embryos for this process, which would only require cages animals being forced to mate and produce the fertilized embryos - but that's still outside of PETA's realm of acceptance. However, scientists say that it's much more difficult to get embryonic samples to produce only the meaty muscle tissue and limit the amount of bone and other non-edible tissues that are cultivated. The optimal tissue for this process is straight-up muscle tissue, which can only be collected by killing the animal. I was pretty sure that PETA is against that kind of thing.

2) By "that kind of thing", I also mean that PETA is adamantly against any scientific research that takes place at the expense of animal's lives or comfort. They don't want you testing lipstick on bunnies. They don't approve of using laboratory mice, even if it's to try and cure cancer or AIDS. Why would they be totally cool and in favor of science that is being tested with these farm critters as we cage, manipulate and/or kill in our attempts to cultivate their organ and muscle tissues? PETA - where in your doctrine is this acceptable to you?

3) I understand that PETA is trying to promote a type of meat that doesn't kill animals (except for the ones used to grow the initial meat source, as previously mentioned). They apparently want to eat meat without the guilt of killing animals. But doesn't this logic completely contradict their war against fur and FAKE FUR? They are opposed to FAKE fur because it promotes the "allure" of real fur, which means that it's somehow making it acceptable to enjoy fur-like things which means more killing of critters. How can they by okay with "non-kill meat" when it promotes the "allure" of tasty real meat, which means that meat itself is acceptable and and will result in the killing of more delicious critters. You can argue that "non-kill meat" will mean an alternative to "real meat" and less animals will die, but can't you make the same argument about fake fur? And isn't that what all those crappy tofu-burgers and veggie-patties are supposed to be for?

So with all of the above craziness going on that is boggling my mind about PETA's decision to sponsor a prize for creating this tube meat, my mind practically exploded upon reading the following criterion for how the prize money will be awarded:

"A team of 10 PETA jurors will taste the entries to make sure they match the texture and flavor of chicken, and they must score at least 80 out of 100 points to win the prize."


PETA isn't supposed to eat real meat!! So how can they be a proper judge for the taste comparison of the tube meat and its real counterpart?? There's no way that an un-biased comparison can be made, let alone the fact that I wouldn't trust them to know what REAL meat tastes like!

To create a random horrible analogy to describe my horror of this scenario - that's like having a U.S. Senator test-play GTA IV and judge if it feels as awesome as REALLY KILLING A HOOKER!

I'm not using that analogy to suggest that eating meat is as bad as killing a hooker - I'm saying that senators aren't supposed to know the delight of actually killing hookers, just like PETA members aren't supposed to know the delight of actually eating meat.

*takes a breath*

With all of that said, I am totally in favor of tube meat and all of these scientific advances. I just needed that long diatribe to illustrate why it is wrong that I'm agreeing with something being promoted by PETA - the reason being that PETA shouldn't be promoting it in the first place. Of course, it follows right along with their protests to save the lives of puppies and yet they drive around in a puppy-kill-mobile.

My only qualms with the idea of test tube meats is going to be that fact that it won't taste the same. There's a certain flavor in meat that comes from what the animal is fed. The amount of activity or lack thereof is what determines the fat content and stringiness of cuts of meat. I believe that the optimum that science will create between resulting product and cost to create it will be a uniform slab of meat with no marbling of fat or anything like that. It will likely be ground up, as ground meats are the most cost-efficient and the texture problem will be solved thusly. Also, science will be able to easily ALTER the tastes of meats cultivated in this manner - wouldn't we not be far off from cultivating human flesh for consumption since it'd be just as easy of a process as chicken or beef? The case WILL be argued, and someone WILL do it once the technology is made available to corporations and citizens start creating tube meat "microbrews" to their hearts' content.

Imagine the legendary Thanksgiving tur-duc-ken (turkey, duck and chicken) now available in one combined meat slab! How about infusing some pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes into the nutrient broth used to cultivate turkey meat tissue and creating Thanksgiving Meat? The possibilities are endless. Maybe that's what worries me.

I frankly still think that there's still too much untapped meat flesh out there that's NOT being consumed when it really should be. I'd rather start eating the available cats and dogs and horses and rats that other countries will eat, to which we in the U.S. have turned up our noses, before I worry about speeding up the process to make extra meat just for the additional benefit of not having to slaughter the animal or deal with bones in the buffalo wings.

What do you think? Is PETA contradicting itself on the meat front? Would you eat test-tube meat products? Would you eat a dog? Would you like to taste human flesh without all those pesky first-degree murder trials?

(The history of Tube Meat)
(PETA's million-dollar contest)
(One whackjob who actually points out why PETA shouldn't be okay with Tube Meat)


Satty said...

Oh. Wow. I'm not quite sure how to respond to that. Just. Wooooow.

Anonymous said...

"That's right. A million dollars is the prize money up for grabs directly from the "Animals Are Not Ours to Eat" gestapo just for making this in vitro meat product commercially available. "

Interesting piece. Could you explain more the connection to prize and Gestapo? Cannot be sure I am following the Nazi/German secret police connection here.

AaronBSam said...

Perhaps "gestapo" isn't the best choice of word to describe their tactics. PETA is now more akin to a terrorist organization than a Nazi regime (though I would equate Ingrid Newkirk more to Hitler than Bin Laden on the evil-dictator scale).

Rubyfruit said...


I just...

My head asplode from hearing that PETA supports the idea of test tube meat.

I don't think I'd eat a person. That'd be just wrong. As for eating dogs or cats or horses--not my preference, but if I was starving, I'd do it.

That, and I hear that horse meat tastes good.

Carlo said...

Good Job! :)

CheChe said...


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