The controversial animal rights organization known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have temporarily shifted their focus away from photographing nude celebrities to do something truly revolutionary.As anyone who has taken a critical look at the production of animal products knows, the meat industry is horrendous on many levels. Obviously, it causes massive amounts of suffering to animals. The meat industry also wreaks havoc on the environment. To raise and transport the animals takes enormous amounts of land, energy, food, and water, and creates enormous amounts of pollution. A huge portion of the pollution that is creating the climate crisis comes from the CO2, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide created by the meat industry; it is even more damaging than all the automobiles.
The current meat production methods also pose significant risks to human health. The health hazards don’t just come from the much publicized contaminants such as antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and other toxins. As Jared Diamond has shown in his book, Guns Germs and Steel, domesticated animals have been largely responsible for the spread of modern diseases. The looming threat of avian flu, whose predecessor was responsible for more deaths than World War 1, is just one of many examples.
Yet, it cannot be denied that meat provides many nutrients which cannot be acquired through the consumption of plants. Humans have evolved to crave meat, and to dismiss that or suggest otherwise is naive.
Luckily, there is a solution that can solve both these problems: In Vitro Meat. Unfortunately, many have been slow to take up this cause. PETA has finally woken up to its amazing potential. In Vitro Meat can fulfill the human need and desire for animal products without causing wanton harm to animals, the environment, and our health. It involves growing muscle cells and other tissue using the stem cells of animals. It would be a humane and extremely efficient way to produce authentic meat.
Even more profoundly, PETA has decided to create a million dollar prize to the “first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012.” Using prizes is an extremely effective way to promote such a cause, since it draws big publicity and fosters competition. The X Prize is a prominent example of such a tactic, and it has been quite successful.
However, I have one criticism of this prize strategy, especially with the larger prizes. It seems silly to offer such large prizes and let the inventors copyright their inventions as well. It would seem more prudent to only award the money if the inventors agree to release their work into the public domain, to be used freely by all.
That said, I commend PETA for their support of In Vitro Meat, and am glad they are focusing their attention on this crucial issue.