Saturday, August 4, 2012

In Vitro Meat: Why Your Grandchildren will be Eating Pork if They are not Vegetarians

IN FIFTY YEARS from now, most observant Jews will either be vegetarians or they will hypothetically have no Halachic objection to regularly consuming pork. Here’s why.

Scientists are currently working on developing in vitro meat. From Wikipedia: “The process of developing in vitro meat involves taking muscle cells and applying a protein that helps the cells to grow into large portions of meat. Once the initial cells have been obtained, additional animals would not be needed – akin to the production of yogurt cultures. Conceivably, one animal could provide more than a billion pounds of in vitro meat to feed the world's population for at least several hundred years.”

They have been successful, but at the moment the meat they’ve produced is prohibitively expensive. However, as the Wikipedia article suggests, in the future “the price of in vitro meat at retail outlets like grocery stores and supermarkets may decrease prices to levels that middle-class consumers consider to be "inexpensive" due to technological advancements.” This seems fairly reasonable.

What does this have to do with us? Simple. As with every other new thing, there will be a disagreement among the rabbis. Some rabbis will argue that in vitro meat is prohibited if it does not originate from a properly slaughtered kosher animal, and others will argue that anything grown merely from cell tissue is not Halachically considered meat.

At the same time that this debate is raging, there will be another major debate raging in the political arena. Once it becomes possible to produce perfectly good quality meat at affordable prices by simply cultivating certain cells, there will really be no need to end the life of an animal in order to enjoy a steak. This will in turn prompt animal rights groups to go into a frenzy about the legality of killing animals for food. They will lobby the lawmakers, saying that until now it may have been excusable, but now that meat is just as easily procured without ending the lives of any animals there is no excuse for the law to allow one to end an animal’s life for food. Eventually the lawmakers will buckle under the pressure because they won’t have a really good answer for the animal rights people, and they won’t have anything to lose anyway.

That’s when the big Halachic discussion will reach its peak. Those for the consumption of in vitro meat will not care that much about this new law, because it’s all kosher anyway. They will continue to put their in vitro pork in the cholent l’kavod Shabbos and this law won’t bother them one bit (except maybe for some Hashkafic issue related to korbanos). Those against, on the other hand, will be at a crossroads. They will have to either live like Marranos and secretly shecht animals or they will simply become vegetarians. The latter seems far more likely for the majority of the population. (The funny thing is that they will probably be the only vegetarians left, because all those who had been vegetarians for animal rights reasons will have already jumped on the in vitro meat bandwagon.)

Therefore, as I see it, in 50 years from now your average observant Jew will either be a vegetarian, or will be consuming pork on a regular basis.


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