This piece from NPR has generated some interest in the topic of in-vitro meat–that is, meat grown in a lab from a cell culture. Apparently there is a real possibility that sometime in the next decade or so we could see lab-grown meat on our supermarket shelves. On its face, this seems like a win-win for animals and for the environment given the well canvassed evils of industrial meat farming. That is, assuming the resulting product is safe for human consumption.
Undoubtedly the idea of eating meat grown in a petri dish will not sit well with a lot of people, at least initially. Similar to concerns about genetically modified crops, they may consider lab-grown meat “unnatural.” But in the case of GMOs there are legitimate concerns about cross-pollination or other forms of environmental harm that wouldn’t seem to apply here. This likely wouldn’t satisfy everyone, but the way most meat is currently produced isn’t exactly natural either, unless you consider being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics meat’s natural state. Maybe in the in-vitro future, “real” meat will become a niche or luxury item affordable only by the very rich. Or maybe eating real meat will come to be seen as grotesquely immoral given the widespread availability of ethically sound alternatives!
From a vegetarian/animal liberation perspective I can imagine that in vitro meat might seem like admitting defeat or a concession to “carnivore culture” (or “carnism” as some people refer to it): instead of convincing people to give up eating animals through moral persuasion, we’re enabling their flesh-eating ways. But assuming the rationale for animal liberation is reducing or ending the suffering and exploitation of animals, rather than just an objection to meat-eating per se (and what would the rationale for that be?), it’s hard to see this as much more than an emotional response.
I could be persuaded otherwise, and I likely wouldn’t eat “vat-meat” myself, but I have a hard time seeing anything wrong with this apart from the initial “ick” factor.
–Marvin on the Presbyterian Church’s decision to allow congregations to call non-celibate gay and lesbian pastors.
–Libraries are part of the social safety net.
–“I hated vegans too, but now I am one.”
–On anti-Semites and philo-Semites.
–Mark Bittman asks, “Why bother with meat?”
–Jesus and eco-theology.
–Jeremy discusses Herbert McCabe and Gerhard Forde on the Atonement.
–Your commute is killing you.
–Rowan Williams’ Ascension Day sermon: “The friends of Jesus are called … to offer themselves as signs of God in the world.”
–Grist’s “great places” series continues with two posts on the industrial food system and its alternatives.
–Keith Ward on his recent book More than Matter?
–Russell Arben Fox on the Left in America.
–The Cheers challenge. My wife and I have already been rewatching the entire series. We’re on season 6 now, which replaces Shelley Long’s Diane with Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, although the earlier seasons are probably the best ones.
–Ozzy’s first two solo albums, which are generally considered classics, have gotten the deluxe reissue treatment. Here’s a review.
–What Makes Life Good? An excerpt from Martha Nussbaum’s new book.
–Johann Hari makes the case against the British monarchy.
–How progressive are taxes in the U.S.?
–Ten teachings on Judaism and the environment.
–Marilyn of Left At the Altar reviews Laura Hobgood-Oster’s The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals.
–A very interesting New Yorker article on the love-hate relationship between fantasy author George R.R. Martin and some of his fans.
–The fantasy of survivalism.
–Intellectual disability and theological anthropology.
–Do we need “Passion/Palm Sunday?” Seems like this comes up every year, and I’m not sure there’s a good solution.
–Mark Bittman on the cost of “lifestyle” diseases.
ADDED LATER: On Dutch efforts to ban traditional Jewish and Islamic practices of animal slaughter.
ADDED EVEN LATER: The spiritual benefits of headbanging, riffing (pun intended) on this Atlantic piece: How Heavy Metal Is Keeping Us Sane. (Thanks, bls!)
ONE MORE: It sounds like the movie version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is every bit as bad as you’d expect.
The NewYork Times gives some coverage today of the ongoing efforts in Iowa, Florida, and now Minnesota to make it impossible for activists to reveal animal abuse in factory farms to the public. I continue to be kind of shocked by how brazen the industry’s attempts to shield itself from public scrutiny are. And that legislators are all too happy to go along with it. This about sums it up:
The legislation has been strongly backed by Republicans but has also won some Democrats. John P. Kibbie, Democrat of Emmetsburg [Iowa] and president of the State Senate, who has been working on an amended bill expected to be released this week, said he supported the legislation to “make producers feel more comfortable.”
Well, we certainly wouldn’t want them to feel uncomfortable.
I spent the day hanging out with my family, so these are coming a little late…
–Why Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal is neither brave nor serious.
–Free-range meat isn’t necessarily “natural.”
–A case for universalism from the Scottish evangelical preacher and biblical scholar William Barclay.
–A review of a recent book called What’s the Least I can Believe and Still Be a Christian?
–The WaPo reviews a local prog-metal band called Iris Divine (here’s their MySpace page).
–Do Americans love war?
–Speaking of war, April 12 marks the 150th anniversary of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter and the onset of the Civil War. I’m thinking of marking the anniversary by finally tackling James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom this spring.
–As I write this, it looks like the two parties are getting close to a budget agreement that will avert a government shutdown. But I still wanted to note that a shutdown would have a major impact on the District itself, shutting down a number of basic city services. This is something that hasn’t gotten much attention.
–The AV Club continues its feature “Loud”–a monthly review of the latest in punk, hardcore, metal, and noise.
This article from Time provides one of the best overviews I’ve seen in a mainstream publication about the issues surrounding factory farms and the use of animals for food. It notes that there’s debate among “humane” meat proponents, vegetarians, and vegans about whether it’s okay to use animals for food at all, but also highlights that most of these folks are united in opposing intensive industrial farming practices. It even gives a lot of space to Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Bauer’s case for veganism. The piece concludes on an ecumenical note, lauding the food movement for “encourag[ing] people to think about their relationship to the food on their plate, about the environmental, social, political, moral and, yes, even culinary factors affected by their choices.”
–Today is the Feast of the Annunciation; here are some thoughts on that. BLS also has one of her outstanding musical offerings for the day.
–John Piper, theological nihilist?
–Catholics are “more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall.”
–How to live without a mobile phone.
–A proposal for a vegan-omnivore alliance against factory farms. Related: Mark Bittman on prospects for laws protecting farm animals.
–A semi-defense of B.R. Myers’ anti-foodie polemic.
–On the anniversary of Bishop Oscar Romero’s assassination.
–Washington, D.C.’s black majority slips away. Related: the percentage of the nation’s black population living in the South has hit its highest point in fifty years.
–An interesting blog I recently discovered: Marginal Utility, hosted at PopMatters; it covers the culture of work and technology from a leftish perspective.
–Why is media coverage of Africa so unrelentingly negative?
–The Lutheran theology journal Dialog currently has its Spring 2011 issue available free online; it includes some reflections on Carl Braaten’s recently released memoir, which apparently (and not surprisingly) has some harsh words for the ELCA. Added later: Here’s another take on the Braaten autobiography from last year.
–Let the D.C. beer renaissance begin.
Added even later: Gateways to Geekery: Kurt Vonnegut.