Most people are familiar with the concept of "Soylent Green" even if they haven't seen the movie. In a fictional dystopian world plagued with overpopulation, pollution, and food scarcity, Soylent Green is the main nutritional food stuff of the future. It's a renewable food source that is the solution to feeding a hungry world. The shocker is what Soylent Green is really made of, which I won't give away here for those who might not have seen it.
The movie was based on a book from science fiction writer Harry Harrison. The movie is drastically different than the book in theme and plot, but "Soylent Green" was originally called "Soylent Steak" in the book. "Soylent Steak" was not the shocker that it was in "Soylent Green", but it was an artificial replacement to real meat. That is exactly what I thought of when I read this article:
About eight years ago, I engaged in my one and only attempt at veganism. It didn't last long. I do not have the conviction of spirit to hold to it for a lifetime. I did not enjoy nor could I get used to the taste of meat substitutes. Rather quickly, I wondered if I was hungering for meat replacements, why not just eat real meat? I also noticed a contradiction in what I was attempting. It was my goal to eliminate processed and packaged food from my diet, and these meat substitutes were HIGHLY processed foods. Soy and corn are among the most genetically modified plants.
That was the end of my vegan experiment.
If meat substitutes tasted more like real meat, then would people be more receptive to vegetarianism or veganism?
Growing "meat" in a petri dish just shifts one ethical dilemma to another.
A long time ago, I reconciled that the very act of living means consuming something that dies. If we eat meat, an animal had to die. If we eat a plant, a plant had to die. Nutrient rich soil is full of organic compost from dead matter, which living plants thrive in. Soil with no bacteria, mold, bugs, worms, decaying plant/animal matter, etc, is dead soil. It cannot sustain life.
Many of my vegetarian friends reconcile this by saying they won't eat anything with a face. Fair enough. However, just because a plant doesn't have a face or a brain doesn't mean it wants to be eaten.
Some edible plants have evolved so that the animals who eat their fruit will spread their seed elsewhere. Some edible plants become inedible or bitter when they go to seed. Some plants developed toxins in order to avoid being eaten because they can't run away. Beans, for example. Beans are very tough and contain a toxin that will make animals very sick if they try to eat it. But as our ancestors discovered, boiling them in water for 10 minutes will neutralize the toxin rendering them safe to eat. If you ever got a case of mysterious food poisoning from a batch of crockpot chili made with dried beans, it was probably because the temperature didn't reach 100C/212F in order to destroy the toxin. Most people mistakenly blame the meat, but it was actually probably the beans.
It is true that the Amazon rain forest is being cut down to make room for cattle. However, it is also being deforested to make room for corn, soy, and wheat. The irrigation and chemical fertilizers used changes the ph balance of the soil through every ecosystem that they pass through. "The Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico is due to the high nitrogen from fertilizer run off carried from farms down the Mississippi River. It causes algae to bloom to such high levels that it removes all the oxygen in the water, suffocating the coral reefs, fish and plants. The midwest grown corn in the corn flakes and the soy in the soy milk for breakfast may have massacred hundreds of thousands of shellfish and fish in what should be the most fertile delta in the United States.
I'm not trying to come up with a solution for this. I'm just framing the problem. Darned if we do, darned if we don't.
Petri dish grown food, though, is disturbing. This isn't hybridization of plants or animals; it is entirely manufactured. It isn't something nature made, and to me that is more offensive than eating bugs.
How exactly are the animal rights activists going to test that this is safe for consumption if they oppose animal testing?
Presumably they think this will be safer from food contamination than animal slaughter. Meat can be contaminated with e coli or salmonella. However, I wouldn't eat anything that bacteria or fungus can't eat. Food is supposed to go moldy. That is life breaking down organic matter. It is NATURAL and the way it is supposed to work.
The most disturbing aspect to me is that "Shmeat" was never alive. It doesn't have any parents. It doesn't have any children. It doesn't grow in the sun; it presumably grows under a heat lamp. Perhaps to some anti-meat advocates, maybe that is what is appealing. If so, then this is an irreconcilable difference, and no, a better tasting fake meat would not convince me it was somehow more healthy.
I am for the ethical raising of livestock and sustainable farms similar to the way my grandparents' generation did it. Cows ate grass in pastures, then were finished with corn in the last week before the slaughter - not raised on grain in feces covered holding cells their whole life. Produce was rotated seasonally on farms to promote healthy soil - not seeded with GMO plants that were bred to be dependent on the company that modified them.
For me, this is an absolute "No Way."