Week 6: Vegetarianism- more than just a health issue- by Leslie Grant

“No thanks, I’m a vegetarian.” I have uttered that phrase countless times in the past eight months, as an explanation for my choice to opt for the veggie burger over the regular burger, after expressing my reluctance to spend money on Mongolian barbeque ($16 might be a reasonable price to pay for a meat buffet- for a salad buffet, not so much), and in countless other everyday situations. Many times the responses I get are ones of surprise, and it is not unlikely for people to question my reasoning. I suppose I disappoint them when I do not burst out with a monologue about animal rights, and lamely explain that my motives are mainly health, and that it wasn’t a big deal to me since I was never obsessed with meat in the first place. I do always feel a little guilty that it isn’t more due to my compassion for animals. Don’t get me wrong, I adore animals of all sort, I’ve just never questioned that naturalness in eating them. However, this week’s reading by Carol Gigliotti made me contemplate it more than ever.

Of course in recent years I have been made aware of how sustainable vegetarianism is. We would no longer have to worry about using resources to feed animals that we are only going to kill, and the methane content of the air would be greatly reduced with the breeding of less cows. And of course, the ethical argument for vegetarianism is something I was aware of before I even considered it. I was not aware, however, that the rights of animals were being argued for from the 16th century. Leonardo da Vinci’s progressive view of animal rights truly surprised and fascinated me. Reading this article and seeing how various artists and scientists described the issue as one of anthropocentrism truly made me see the connection between using animals for food and using animals for experimental purposes- the argument of whether eating meat is ethical or not directly relates to bioethics.

I think that one of the most fascinating points of this article, although it is one that was only briefly mentioned near the end, is the work that is being done on “Disembodied Cuisine.” The project contemplates the possibility of the production of “victimless meat” that could be grown from a biopsy of an animal that is still alive and healthy. More information about the project, which is currently producing frog skeletal muscle as a source of food, at this website: http://www.tca.uwa.edu.au/disembodied/dis.html. I’m sure many people could echo my statement that I have never considered the possibility of this since eating meat is the norm for most of our society. Because of this, I feel as if many people would react negatively to this idea upon first hearing it. Undoubtedly people will feel opposed to something that seems so unnatural to them, and especially since there are many aspects of the process to take into consideration. Will people be able to obtain the same nutrients from meat that has essentially been produced? Will there prove to be any side effects from ingesting this? For now it is easy to write off the issue since it is not a pressing one, but as the technology progresses we will be faced with different questions. Suppose there are no flaws in the technology and it becomes feasible to continue eating meat without killing animals. Surely the public could not present a logical reason for the continued slaughter of animals. If that were the case, how then could biological testing on animals be allowed to continue? If humans no longer saw our living, breathing, companions as necessary prey for our survival I feel as if a new type of respect would be bestowed upon them that would convert people who currently condone animal testing.

An example of Disembodied Cuisine. Look tasty?

An example of Disembodied Cuisine. Look tasty?

I am fascinated to see how the process of engineering our meat, rather than slaughtering it, will pan out. If it is somehow able to make it past all of the barriers that will be presented by society I truly feel that the next issue will indeed be whether we can continue to justify animal testing now that they are no longer “necessary” to our diets, whether animals will still be seen as expendable. Could the perfection of one technology temporarily slow technological process in other fields while we search for a replacement for the animals we currently use as our test subjects?

Leslie Grant

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