Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Moral Uncertainties and Synthetic Beef

Every now and then you come across something that you find yourself incapable of forming a solid response to.  You both love and hate it.  Maybe you want whatever it is, while at the same time fearing what would happen if you actually got it.  Emotional responses can be pretty complex. 

But then, synthetic beef is pretty complex, as well.

Yep.  That's what has placed my emotional responses on overload.  See, a friend alerted me to an article about synthetic beef, and as is expected, I read the whole thing, completely transfixed.  I then put it aside, because I couldn't seem to form a coherent response it it. 

I had a positive/negative reaction: I loved the idea from the standpoint of a person that knows full well that if I could only eat what I collected with my own two hands, I'd be a vegetarian... or perhaps an occasional pescatarian.  Basically, the very idea of killing something (except, of course, mosquitoes) is hard for me to deal with.  The knowledge of meat without the actual death of an animal, therefore, appeals to me.

I was also very worried, however. 

Would enough testing go into this before allowing it into the mainstream?  Would it end up with the same lack of oversight as genetically modified foods?  Would it one day cause cattle and chicken to become endangered and only found in containment, since humans aren't particularly well known for caring about the fate of animals that aren't deemed necessary?  Will we be able to keep ourselves in check, or will we end up cloning whole cows, then claiming they feel nothing when they're killed?

You'll notice that my worries are completely on a moral front.  

The technology doesn't worry me.  Rather, it's the morals of those behind the technology.  Will greed cause some of my worries about synthetic beef to come true?

Of course, I can also argue the positives on a moral front: No more killing to get meat is a huge plus.  The environment also benefits.  As explained in the article mentioned above,
"Different methods of growing meat in labs will have different impacts on the environment, and Post said early indications were that his lab meat reduced the need for land and water by 90% and cut overall energy use by 70%." (source)
This is huge!

Having been raised in the desert, I can tell you that 90% reduction of water use would be overwhelmingly awesome. The water level drop in the Puddle Grande... I mean... Rio Grande... in the past fifteen years has been significant, and a reduction that significant would be of extraordinary benefit. 

I'm just not quite sure what my response to synthetic beef will end up being.  

What do you think? Is synthetic beef a spectacular idea that should be praised and encouraged, or is it a frightening concept that needs to be tightly reined in?

Or is the answer something in the middle?

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