Saturday, July 3, 2010

Eating synthetic animals. Want some?

"Kate McMahon, who represents Friends of the Earth, complained to CNN that "At a time when hundreds of small-scale, sustainable farming operations are filing for bankruptcy every day, it is unethical to consider purchasing petri dish meat." Unethical! Slow Food USA is skeptical for reasons that defy easy summation, but here's president Josh Viertel's take on "test-tube flesh": "The problems with cruelty to animals are born of that gap [between producer and consumer]. I see [test tube flesh] as a solution that just increases that gap ... This is a technology that's just going to give more to companies and create a larger distance between us."

Frankly, these responses boggle my noodle. Both McMahon and Viertel seem to forget that an integral aspect of animal cruelty is not just how an animal is treated while it's alive but also the inconvenient truth that—no matter how they are raised—the animals we eat ultimately succumb to a violent death, one that they are smart enough to anticipate, sentient enough to suffer through, and, were they given an option, wise enough to avoid. On some (philosophical?) level, the humanity of the treatment is compromised the moment the death blow lands—this is certainly "one of the problems with cruelty to animals." In fact, dare one interpret that gruesome moment as penultimate to anything else, consider the reaction of a man as cold-steeled and tough-minded as Anthony Bourdain who, after witnessing the slaughter of a six-month-old hand-fed pig, left this unforgettable response in Kitchen Confidential:

For a guy who'd spent twenty-eight years serving dead animals and sneering at vegetarians, I was having an unseemly amount of trouble getting with the program. I had to suck it up. . . It took four strong men, experts at this sort of thing, to restrain the pig, then drag and wrestle him up onto his side ... With the weight of two men pinning him down, and another holding his hind legs, the main man with the knife, gripping him by the head, leaned over and plunged the knife all the way into the beast's thorax, just above the heart. The pig went wild. The screaming penetrated the fillings in my teeth ... With an incredible shower of fresh blood, the pig fought mightily ...They finally managed to wrestle the poor beast back up onto the cart again, the guy with the mustache working the blade back and forth like a toilet plunger ...
Anyone who has seen anything remotely like this intuitively understands the truth of the matter: the pig does not go gently for the very basic reason that the pig does not want to go." (Thanks Bert) 

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