In The Conscience of a Carnivore (“It’s time to stop killing meat and start growing it”), William Saletan makes an eloquent moral case for our coming ability to grow meat in giant petri dishes, rather than raising it the old-fashioned way:
Growing meat like this will be good for us in lots of ways. We’ll be able to make beef with no fat, or with good fat transplanted from fish. We’ll avoid bird flu, mad-cow disease, and salmonella. We’ll scale back the land consumption and pollution involved in cattle farming. But 300 years from now, when our descendants look back at slaughterhouses the way we look back at slavery, they won’t remember the benefits to us, any more than they’ll remember our dried-up tears for a horse. They’ll want to know whether we saw the moral calling of our age.
Apparently they’ve already succeeded in growing fish flesh in a dish, which looked and smelled good enough to eat (though FDA rules didn’t allow them to taste it). Pork isn’t far behind.
To me, lab meat seems like the ultimate extension of what we already do with factory farming and slaughtering, in terms of its sterility and the way it removes us from the natural life/death cycle. But lab meat has the added moral advantage of not involving sentient life, which should place a large swath of vegetarians and Buddhists in an interesting position.
The piece is also available as a podcast (Slate has become my favorite podcast subscription). See also: Why meat may not be murder.