PETA: We’re cool with test-tube meat

posted at 8:41 am on April 21, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals may not be as radical as some people think. They seem willing to work towards compromise in marching towards their vegan vision for the world. PETA has offered a million dollars to the person who can create lab meat to replace livestock, but it may cost them their more die-hard members, if you’ll pardon the pun:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to pay a million dollars for fake meat — even if it has caused a “near civil war” within the organization.

The organization said it would announce plans on Monday for a $1 million 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.” …

A founder of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, said she had been hoping to get the organization involved in advancing in vitro meat technology for at least a decade.

But, Ms. Newkirk said, the decision to sponsor a prize caused “a near civil war in our office,” since so many PETA members are repulsed by the thought of eating animal tissue, even if no animals are killed.

Lisa Lange, a vice president of the organization, said she was part of the heated exchange. “My main concern is, as the largest animal rights organization in the world, it’s our job to introduce the philosophy and hammer it home that animals are not ours to eat.” Ms. Lange added, “I remember saying I would be much more comfortable promoting eating roadkill.”

It wouldn’t be fake meat in the same sense as current soy substitutes. The process envisioned by PETA would produce tissue genetically identical to beef, pork, chicken or fish, without killing live animals to get it. Since the entire production would take place in laboratories on successively larger scales, it would not involve animal husbandry and the environmental impact that creates. Some even point out that the meat could be modified to remove bad fats and replaced with healthier compounds, like Omega-3s.

However, this seems like a kidney-pie-in-the-sky solution. Just the timing seems ridiculously ambitious. PETA wants to have “commercially viable quantities” in four years when no one has produced even an experimental quantity at this point. Not only that, but one cannot manufacture meat or anything else out of thin air. Where would we get the protein necessary to produce meat tissue? Either we would have to get it from animals, or we would have to grow bean crops in exponentially greater quantities than we do now — which will have its own environmental and pricing impact.

And let’s not forget that this same demographic routinely shrieks about “Frankenfoods”, or genetically-modified crops. After years of hearing their uneducated nonsense about the dangers of genetically-modified crops, why are they now cheering genetically-modified meat, which comes from a much less organic source than GM crops?

Before PETA members flee in protest, perhaps they should just wait until 2012 to see whether anyone even applies for the prize. I’d bet a steak dinner that it will go unclaimed.

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But But, what about the rights of glass test tubes
Peta!

canopfor on April 21, 2008 at 8:45 AM

I am so glad I had already swallowed my coffee before reading this post. Thanks Ed, for the morning laughs (of course, now my kids are certain that I’m goofy).

Yummmmm, steak! I know what I’m having for dinner – fire up the grill!!!

;-)

Pachyderm on April 21, 2008 at 8:51 AM

I did a lot of cell and tissue culture work back in the day, and this is a nastyass proposal. Not to mention that you can’t start a tissue culture without macerating some, well, tissue. And one major component of any good growth medium was serum. Perhaps the PETA folks should google “cell culture serum” before they go whole, er, horse/hog over this idea.

funky chicken on April 21, 2008 at 8:56 AM

This would have been an ideal post for the “red meat” image.

flipflop on April 21, 2008 at 8:57 AM

Actually there have been experimental quantities produced for many years.

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/06/71201

In fact the picture you used for this on the front page is from that original article.

cameo on April 21, 2008 at 9:06 AM

Has anyone from PETA ever gone hungry? I would love to lock one of these nuts in a room for two weeks with only grilled meat to eat and see how true they are to their beliefs.

Thank goodness they exist in a place and time where millions live in starvation and they get to fret over this nonsense while feeding their egos on expensive and available nuts and twigs.

If they didn’t hate humans so much, they could spend their time and money feeding the starving.

Hening on April 21, 2008 at 9:08 AM

What could possibly go wrong?

franksalterego on April 21, 2008 at 9:11 AM

I always wondered if PETA goes around protesting bears, wolves, and other carnivorous or omnivorous animals…

Tuari on April 21, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Hmm . . . This may lead to the path to creating a replicator!

geckomon on April 21, 2008 at 9:13 AM

The organization said it would announce plans on Monday for a $1 million 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.” …

What if, as is likely, the research to create in vitro meat requires animal research? Where PETA begins to engage in out-right lying is their claims that animal research is unnecessary to zoology, medicine, or biotech.

thuja on April 21, 2008 at 9:18 AM

PETA is just another group that looks for any excuse to hate people who don’t think like they do.

Rode Werk on April 21, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Do PETA members make their pet dogs & cats eat broccoli?

jgapinoy on April 21, 2008 at 9:26 AM

PETA is just another group that looks for any excuse to hate people who don’t think like they do.

Rode Werk on April 21, 2008 at 9:22 AM

No! No! You’re wrong! They don’t hate their enemies, they love them. They’d love them to death…..

ScottG on April 21, 2008 at 9:27 AM

Has anyone from PETA ever gone hungry? I would love to lock one of these nuts in a room for two weeks with only grilled meat to eat and see how true they are to their beliefs.
Hening on April 21, 2008 at 9:08 AM

As a vegetarian, I’ve decided that I’d starve for three days before eating factory farmed meat, or one day for road kill or game. I have eaten road kill turkey before.

thuja on April 21, 2008 at 9:27 AM

. Not only that, but one cannot manufacture meat or anything else out of thin air. Where would we get the protein necessary to produce meat tissue? Either we would have to get it from animals, or we would have to grow bean crops in exponentially greater quantities than we do now — which will have its own environmental and pricing impact.

You’re quite likely wrong here. The in vitro meat is quite likely to be more efficient about turning feed into meat than factory farmed animals. And so we’ll have to grow less grain to get the equivalent amount of meat.

thuja on April 21, 2008 at 9:32 AM

This explains Jimmy Carter.

profitsbeard on April 21, 2008 at 9:36 AM

franksalterego-

What could possibly go wrong?

The plot of “Synthetic Men of Mars” by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs may provide a clue.

profitsbeard on April 21, 2008 at 9:39 AM

And let’s not forget that this same demographic routinely shrieks about “Frankenfoods”, or genetically-modified crops. After years of hearing their uneducated nonsense about the dangers of genetically-modified crops, why are they now cheering genetically-modified meat, which comes from a much less organic source than GM crops?

Why? because only the evil meat eaters will be ingesting the genetically modified meat, ostensibly. So who cares if it’s bad for them as long as the animals are safe?

Dash on April 21, 2008 at 9:43 AM

Not to mention that you can’t start a tissue culture without macerating some, well, tissue.
funky chicken on April 21, 2008 at 8:56 AM

I don’t know, but I’ve been told, it can be produced from Soy Beans and Lentils.

franksalterego on April 21, 2008 at 9:44 AM

funky chicken on April 21, 2008 at 8:56 AM

I worked in the same field as you and do think the concept is viable. I suspect reliance on fetal calf serum can be reduced or eliminated once the full impact of what biofuels will do to our food economy sets in and we start developing technology to address that issue. Tissue cultures for master seed will have to be stocked so, primary cells won’t be necessary or even desirable from a safety standpoint for production purposes. Same concept as presently exists for biological agents. If we continue to use up corn for energy, we won’t be able to afford it for animal feed. I have every faith that efficient SOPs can be developed when enough economic pressure is applied. The irony is it will probably involve more govenment subsidy to offset the govenment subsidy for biofuels. :)

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 9:50 AM

I try to eat red meat at least once per day, but I won’t eat meat from animals injected with hormones; I certainly won’t eat meat grown in a jar.

Think_b4_speaking on April 21, 2008 at 9:54 AM

Who in their right mind would even think of taking a single bite from some bio-engineered “meat”?

JetBoy on April 21, 2008 at 9:58 AM

I try to eat red meat at least once per day, but I won’t eat meat from animals injected with hormones; I certainly won’t eat meat grown in a jar.

Think_b4_speaking on April 21, 2008 at 9:54 AM

Good luck with that. Try feeding out cattle or hogs on $6.00/bushel corn. The average consumer doesn’t have 5 acres of pasture to grass feed his own and commercial feedlots really, really hate to run at a loss. We’re just dealing with the beginnings of a massive increase in the cost of meat.

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:02 AM

Who in their right mind would even think of taking a single bite from some bio-engineered “meat”?

JetBoy on April 21, 2008 at 9:58 AM

What do you think the vaccines you allow to be injected into your body are grown on? If they are viral, it is tissue culture.

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:04 AM

What do you think the vaccines you allow to be injected into your body are grown on? If they are viral, it is tissue culture.

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:04 AM

Injected vaccines are one thing…I don’t have to think about where they came from. Even hormone-injected cattle is OK. But I gotta draw the line at cloned animals, and test tube steaks.

blech.

JetBoy on April 21, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Do PETA members make their pet dogs & cats eat broccoli?

jgapinoy on April 21, 2008 at 9:26 AM

PETA members don’t (or at least shouldn’t) believe in private ownership of pets. Animals are more worthy of protection than people are, in their warped minds.

gryphon202 on April 21, 2008 at 10:11 AM

Injected vaccines are one thing…I don’t have to think about where they came from. Even hormone-injected cattle is OK. But I gotta draw the line at cloned animals, and test tube steaks.

blech.

JetBoy on April 21, 2008 at 10:06 AM

So, your distaste is based on emotion rather than logic? I don’t have a problem with that, but we’ll see if your acceptance threshold may be lowered a bit when the real cost of biofuels starts to impact the food animal industry. I realize economics are not the reason PETA is agonizing over the issue. I also remember my father swearing he wouldn’t ever eat margerine as a replacement for butter when that controversy first arose,…but he eventually did.:)

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:14 AM

Good luck with that. Try feeding out cattle or hogs on $6.00/bushel corn. The average consumer doesn’t have 5 acres of pasture to grass feed his own and commercial feedlots really, really hate to run at a loss. We’re just dealing with the beginnings of a massive increase in the cost of meat.

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:02 AM

.
So far, I deal with Whole Foods, who have an inspection program to keep engineered beef off of their shelves. I don’t mind paying extra. Also, the FFA in our area sells whole steers, which are raised by kids in the program, with testing regimes to ensure they are not being doped. I have the freezer space to acquire and store my meat in this way if necessary.

Think_b4_speaking on April 21, 2008 at 10:20 AM

Lab meat???! Why would anyone want to eat their dog??!

Sorry, couldn’t resist that one. Joking aside, I think PETA is probably aware that no one in their right mind would eat meat that was brewed in a effing lab, that’s most likely their point. Good Christ, some people have way too much time on their hands.

4shoes on April 21, 2008 at 10:26 AM

“some people have way too much time on their hands.”

I meant the PETA people, by the way.

4shoes on April 21, 2008 at 10:27 AM

Think_b4_speaking on April 21, 2008 at 10:20 AM

Cost of production will increase. Those FFA kids raise meat animals as training in how to make a buck doing it. Unless Whole Foods wants to lose it’s profit margin, that increase in energy costs will be passed on to the consumer. This is just the first step. Wait till corn hits $8-10/bushel.

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:31 AM

Wait till corn hits $8-10/bushel.

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:31 AM

.
I’ll pay it. I already pay 10% more just to get non-hormome beef. Better to spend more than to ingest the crap they call ‘meat’ at Kroger, or this engineered pseudo-food. It’s no wonder kids are developing early, and having more problems with allergies, given the growth hormones that are shoved into feedstock animals, and undoubtedly into the people that eat them…

Think_b4_speaking on April 21, 2008 at 10:39 AM

Yuk, first thing that came to mind was the ‘chickens’ in Oryx and Crake. scary stuff

Keli on April 21, 2008 at 10:45 AM

We’re going to need a lot more Steak Sauce and Ketchup.

ronsfi on April 21, 2008 at 10:48 AM

Think_b4: easy for you to say. You’re not the World Food Program, where the 41% increase in grain prices (thanks a great part to more going to biofuel) has really cut back on who they can supply. Here’s some of those not getting supplied and the organization I work with is barely keeping head above water to get them fed. Tell them how important biopurity is.

Considering the starvation aspects of recent price increases, maybe PETA is suggesting a ‘Soylent Green’ source for the precursors to grow their ‘lab meat’. Then someone can cut out the middleman of the lab.

michaelo on April 21, 2008 at 10:53 AM

So next time you fill up with Ethanol remember, you’re burning an orphan’s dinner.

ronsfi on April 21, 2008 at 10:58 AM

The ironic turn of this article: before being declared safe for human consumption, lab-grown meat will need to be extensively tested on animals.

James on April 21, 2008 at 10:58 AM

Just curious…what efforts is PETA taking to get carnivorous animals to stop eating animal meat. Lions and tigers and bears are some of the worst perpetrators of speciesist activity.

Nosferightu on April 21, 2008 at 11:07 AM

Only PETA would think we want to eat fake meat. Screw them.

Dr. Manhattan on April 21, 2008 at 11:11 AM

You’re not the World Food Program, where the 41% increase in grain prices (thanks a great part to more going to biofuel) has really cut back on who they can supply.

michaelo on April 21, 2008 at 10:53 AM

.
Yes, I understand the issue (in fact, I give to charities in that region who help supply clean water and also food). But, that is not really the same issue. My concern for myself is non-chemically altered meat, and my concern for the rest of the world is ending the biofuel programs which are consuming needed foodstuffs – and I don’t see lab produced meat as a solution. As a resident of the first world, I can afford to be picky in what I eat – in many places, people are lucky to get any.

Think_b4_speaking on April 21, 2008 at 11:14 AM

So, your distaste is based on emotion rather than logic? I don’t have a problem with that, but we’ll see if your acceptance threshold may be lowered a bit when the real cost of biofuels starts to impact the food animal industry. I realize economics are not the reason PETA is agonizing over the issue. I also remember my father swearing he wouldn’t ever eat margerine as a replacement for butter when that controversy first arose,…but he eventually did.:)

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 10:14 AM

I think my distaste is both emotion and logic. But yeah…

As for food prices rising because of this biofuel thing…they already have. Seems everything in the supermarket is far more expensive than it was a year ago. As for steaks, I only get ‘em on sale.

JetBoy on April 21, 2008 at 11:22 AM

Bumper Sticker I recently saw:

Meat is Murder.
Tasty, tasty, murder!

TugboatPhil on April 21, 2008 at 11:30 AM

Give me that good old test-tube T-bone! Yum!

(Yuck)

irishspy on April 21, 2008 at 11:35 AM

The ironic turn of this article: before being declared safe for human consumption, lab-grown meat will need to be extensively tested on animals.

James on April 21, 2008 at 10:58 AM

Which creates an interesting puzzle. I made a good living for many years, doing clinical safety/efficacy studies for biological agents. Since our meat animals are primarily “prey” types, how does one write a protocol? The result would have to be measured in the organism consuming the final product, wouldn’t it? Should the final generation be a meat eater? If it isn’t human, does that bias the study? Ethical? I realize test material could be fed mixed with normal herbivore/omnivore rations, but how do you account for impact of the normal ration when measuring results? How many generations or life cycles would be required? What safety factors would be measured? Political needs would drive much of it, similar to the HIV issues.
Exit question. How many readers think all new drug and vaccine safety studies for license application are based on vigorous long term studies? We have new influenza vaccines every year? How do you know they work or are safe for you as an individual?

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 11:38 AM

Perhaps they can put multiple policies together. Like Vegan and abortion. Would they approve the invitro generation of human ‘meat’ for consumption? The repugnance is multiplied, visible,and would make for interesting debate.

jerseyman on April 21, 2008 at 11:41 AM

Operation Chaos is branching out..

Reaps on April 21, 2008 at 11:56 AM

jerseyman on April 21, 2008 at 11:41 AM

One of the common sources of monoclonal antibodies is a hybridoma, which is a biological production machine created by merging human cervical cancer cells with lymphocytes which have been primed to a very specific antigen. The cancer cells create a rapid rate of growth and the lymphocytes produce the specific antibody. I have heard passionate arguments against the use of human cells for such a purpose, in spite of the tremendous value of monoclonals.

a capella on April 21, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Why don’t they just set up a processing plant at each of the planned parenthood abortion clinics…they can have all the “free meat” they want…
Thank you, you can transfer the money into my off-shore account.

right2bright on April 21, 2008 at 12:02 PM

PETA pioneering the next generation of mystery meats…what could possibly go wrong?

Besides, I thought SPAM was a man-made meat protein substance made from candle wax and hog jowls. You can’t improve on perfection folks…

Wyznowski on April 21, 2008 at 12:34 PM

Wyznowski-

If the SPAM can starts talking, put it back.

profitsbeard on April 21, 2008 at 12:52 PM

It’s only because they’re tired of the raw veggies and want a cheeseburger.

Mommynator on April 21, 2008 at 1:33 PM

I can just see it when they eat their “lab-grown meat”… Oh yeah, they’d believe that “no living being was harmed in its making”… But they’d be surprised when they find out the source of their protein…

“Soylent Green is people!”

;-)

newton on April 21, 2008 at 1:50 PM

right2bright on April 21, 2008 at 12:02 PM

You were ahead of me!

newton on April 21, 2008 at 1:51 PM

Great. I want beer flavored “meat product” please.

BTW, has Willy Wonka perfected his chewing gum yet? This is too silly. Dungeon Master, I am taking out my “+2 bubblegum of BS” and chewing.

Claypigeon on April 21, 2008 at 2:03 PM

Out here in deer, elk, and cow country, we formed our own PETA group…People Eating Tasty Animals. We meet every Friday for wings, steak fingers, and beer to discuss our next BBQ enforcement action.

Wyznowski on April 21, 2008 at 2:58 PM

Dear Ed:

Please keep tossing me these fat pitches. They’re the biggest thrills I get these days.

FRANKENFOOD: Hot dog.

IN VITRO FERTILIZATION: Test-tube meet.

TOFU LAMB: Leg o’ Nutton’.

VEGAN: Soy loser.

VEGGIE PATTY: Shamburger.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on April 21, 2008 at 4:49 PM

And one more:

IN VITRO MEAT: Test-tube steak.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on April 21, 2008 at 4:52 PM

Ms. Lange added, “I remember saying I would be much more comfortable promoting eating roadkill.”

Watch out, Hillary!

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on April 21, 2008 at 5:14 PM

Unintended benifit. Bicep injections. Pecs, adbs, butt whatever.

- The Cat

MirCat on April 21, 2008 at 8:14 PM

They want replicators! (Star Trek, not Stargate)

hadsil on April 21, 2008 at 8:59 PM