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From 30 January 2005 Issue

The Flesh Factory of the Future
By Will Peavy - wpeavy@mail.usf.edu

On December 28, 2004, the U.S. government granted an inventor a patent for, “producing tissue engineered meat for consumption.” More specifically, the patent was issued for the process of growing, in a factory, non-human animal muscles that are intended to be eaten by human animals. The muscles grown through this form of technology would be independent of any sort of nervous system or conscious being; and thus no animal, in the current sense of the word, would need to be grown or slaughtered in order to produce the meat.

While no clear plan to implement this technology on a wide scale is mentioned in the patent, it is apparent that there is a strong profit motive to bringing this form of meat to the mass market as quickly as possible. Factory farmers, whose bottom line is to produce flesh in the most efficient manner possible in order to maximize profits, have a clear motive to embrace this technology. This means that, potentially, the process of creating tissue engineered meat created from non-sentient flesh could replace the process of imprisoning and slaughtering billions of sentient animals per year for their flesh.

I imagine there would be a good deal of opposition to this technology from several groups, most notably in the form of religious objections, and from the grain producers who would no longer be needed by the flesh producers. However, as a vegan who is concerned with the health and well-being of the Earth, humans, and other animals – I support this technology. While animal activists have been advocating veganism for years, we have seen the number of animals that go through the factory farming system increase. Yet, this technology may be able to provide a product that can satiate the desires of the average animal flesh consumer (because of the lack of public outrage towards factory farming and because of the prevalence of fast food chains, it is apparent that the average consumer holds little interest in how his or her food is produced) without sentencing billions of sentient animals to confinement and cruelty. Whereas factory farms cause a massive amount of environmental pollution in the form of animal urine and feces, tissue engineered meat holds the promise of producing consumable animal flesh without creating animal excrement. And while human rights groups point to the slaughter industry as one of the absolute worst industries in terms of labor abuse, with this new form of technology there would be need for the carcass slicing of the slaughterhouse.

Upon first glance the idea of tissue engineered meat may not be a pretty one, but if it were to become the de facto standard of meat production, it appears that this technology would put an end to many of the ills associated with the modern factory farm.

The full text of the patent can be seen at
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=ptxt&s1=vein.INZZ.&OS=IN/vein&RS=IN/vein

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