Would you eat lab grown human meat?
This question popped up between my friends and I when we were discussing the possibilities of lab grown meat. When discussing lab grown meat, one of the arguments for it is that it is far more ethical to consume as it didn't originate from a living, conscious being. But if you replace the meat being grown in a lab to human meat rather than fish or beef, is it still less ethical? Or is it something that will be seen as incredibly taboo to the point where it should be outlawed?
I would be curious to read your thoughts and points of view on this!
For me, it's going to be a hard no that it shouldn't it be done. But to be honest, I feel like my feelings regarding it come from an emotional perspective rather than a logical one.
Edit: Let's throw in lab grown human organs as well. Say these are the organs that aren't suitable for transplant, but are perfectly edible.
From a biological standpoint the argument against cannibalism is to avoid exposure to prions. Assuming that this danger is non-existent in a lab grown environment, I don’t see the moral argument for why human meat should be any different than other lab grown meats.
Currently most lab grown meats are intended to be used in a form of ground meat, so consistency is less of a factor than taste. Given how many types of meat we put into sausages, I don’t think people could even tell the difference if human meat were mixed in.
Assuming there would be no human suffering involved (I’m not an expert in modern/future stem cell extraction techniques), it doesn’t ring any alarm bells to me from an ethical point of view (I’m assuming this doesn’t require some aborted fetus in the future).
If we’re comfortable with blood transfusions and organ transplants, it doesn’t seem to me like lab grown meat should be held to a higher standard. At a microscopic level, mammalian muscles should be relatively homogenous. It’s not like you could make an argument for stress hormones or grass-fed beef changing the flavor here.
TL;DR I’m OK with it. You are what you eat :)
In this case, you eat what you are.
I wouldn't eat it because then I would get the hunger.
On a serious note: unless I had no other options, no, I wouldn't eat artificial human flesh. The reason for that is not ethics, it would just feel weird to eat an imitation of my own kind (I cannot eat bull tongue - a traditional local dish - because it feels too much like my own tongue...).
Artificial human meat would be weird enough to make the meal significantly less enjoyable.
You qualify that with "artificial". So would you eat natural human flesh, assuming it was ethically-sourced (e.g. donated by a healthy individual)?
I qualified the answer because the question was qualified.
Regardless, if there were no other options, I'd certainly consider eating natural human flesh in order to stay alive.
The necessary condition for me to do it would be that my human flesh consumption caused no human deaths, mutilation or suffering.
The definition of suffering is subjective, but you get the gist.
hell yea I've always wanted to taste human meat but for obvious ethical reasons have not
there are certainly ways in which this can still be done unethically, however, so I'd have to better understand the exact methodology of human lab meat creation / development
For me, it's a heavily qualified "yes", taking as granted that the technical and safety issues still common to all forms of lab tissue culture have been solved in the context of industrial mass production.
Let's come at this from a completely different (and funny) ethical direction, to ask questions like:
Do humans have perpetual copyright on their own unique DNA? If so, how do you compensate particularly tasty, interesting, or prestigious ones for their cell culture products?
Has the initial cell sample been taken with fully informed consent, revokable at any time?
At what point does verisimilitude with naturally grown tissues raise ethical questions? [I personally would not eat anything grown with nerve cells.]
Is there any way to ethically market cultured human meat that doesn't elide religious, moral, public health, environmental, or other concerns?
That's just a handful of the possible issues.
Ooh, your point #3 raises a very interesting point. If you're not careful, you could culture a person, or something intelligent enough to be called one - and that would be horrifying for a number of reasons.
There's a truly ghastly science fiction short story by Piers Anthony (whom I otherwise have little respect for), In the Barn (this links to a summary, but all the warnings still apply here - NSFW, violence and rape triggers, etc.; read at your own risk).
Basically, the livestock are humans in every respect, except their environment has been artificially stunted in such a way that they lack what we would recognize as sentience. They're still capable of suffering and pleasure, in the same manner as cows or other animals.
Some of the horror comes from the greater moral stature that we accord to anything with a human face, even dolls or other simulacra. There are people who become vegetarians because they "don't want to eat faces", however abstracted from human. There are certainly vegetarians who experience revulsion at the thought of consuming anything meat-like, even if it was never capable of having sensations or experiences.
As I said, I'd draw a line on culturing human meat with any nerve tissue at all, though I don't claim that I exercise this discretion with other animals.
That book sounds wild! And your last point is well-taken. I think it's fine to draw lines, however arbitrary they may seem, in these situations. I'm not sure if I can articulate why.
In the Barn is just a short story, but it's part of Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions anthologies, which compiled genuinely radical departures from the John W. Campbell-era style of technology-first science fiction editing.
The stories aren't all classics that withstand the test of time, but the scope of speculation makes them required reading if you're interested in the science fiction literary genre. Subjects under consideration include previous taboos like psychedelic drugs and variant sexuality/genders, as well as the social effects of UBI and post-scarcity, imperialism and colonialism, environmental destruction... Good stuff.
The anthology sounded interesting; I'll have to check it out!
I always ask a similar question to annoy my wife: "Is consensual cannibalism ethically consistent with veganism?" For me, veganism is all about the fact that the animal can't consent to being eaten, so it's wrong. So if you could eat a consenting adult human, that's the only meat you could eat under veganism.
So as far as lab-grown human meat is concerned, as long as the original stem-cell donor (or however the culture is begun) has consented, I'd say knock yourself out. I don't know if I would, except maybe on a dare -- and then only a taste. But no Henrietta Lacks steaks!
Veganism is also about abolishing the inhumane conditions under which animals are confined to maximize production of non-meat products. [I'm not sure I see the issues with consuming found eggs, milking free-range mammals, or providing bees with safe living quarters in order to harvest their surplus honey, but I think I get the principle of the thing.]
Honestly, I've been struggling with this line of thinking lately as well. Like, there are market forces at stake too? So if the animal product's already been made and sold and I find it later, or in your formulation, if I find eggs and they're not fertilized, is that ethical? Why wouldn't it be? There's a pragmatic argument for vegan visibility, but just an ethical argument, I'm not sure, save maybe consistency.
In all honesty, I'm not a vegan; it's not a commitment I've found sustainable and healthy. At the same time, I generally agree with the ethical claims of veganism, so I'm doing what I can to minimize the harm I inflict.
I'm starting to build out plans for a permaculture/urban farming establishment. One of the likely features is a quail run; beehives are in progress.
I had a long think about the ethics of keeping birds, since they're being confined against their flight instincts. It's not overly expensive to build a quail enclosure that allows natural exercise, and they produce eggs very reliably, even if I don't kill them for meat.
At the same time, since quail eggs and meat are potential trade commodities, I can understand the slippery-slope argument that even the most ethical wild harvesting opens the door to animals being productized, which then leads to the cruelties of confinement farming for mass production.
Or, for something a little more accessible, what about adult consumption of human breast milk?
Relevant Hitchhiker's Guide
I can't watch the link b/c work, but I'm assuming it's the restaurant at the end of the universe clip where the cow's been bred to want to be eaten? That's comedy gold!
That's the one!
No, I wouldn't for the same reason that I don't eat skunk or rat or snake meat despite having no ethical issues with killing those animals. It's just kinda gross.
I don't think there's a moral issue with eating lab grown human meat, but honestly you've gotta kind of wonder about the guy that's like "YEAH HUMAN BURGERS ARE MY FAVORITE." If there were ever a serious market for this kind of thing, I would definitely not hang out with their customers.
Yeah. I think the "ick factor" is really enough for me to refuse to try it even sans vegetarianism. I also think it'd be weird to know what other people tasted like, I feel like it'd be something I'd have a hard time forgetting about when just talking to people and living day-to-day.
In my younger and edgier days I would have said yes to the hypothetical, although actually doing it I think would be a different beast.
I would, definitely. Probably only once, for the experience. The thought of eating human meat at any frequency does nothing for me, but it's one of those things I can afford to do once in my lifetime or regret missing out on.
Hey, I'm making jewelry from my own (surgically removed) femoral head. As far as I'm concerned, there's no consent issue, it's mine and I can do what I like with my leftovers.
Which now raises the proposal, if we could clone our own cells for personal consumption of meat, wouldn't that be the most ethical way to do it? (No nerve cells, of course.)
Or cells donated specifically for that purpose. Explicit consent embedded into the whole procedure (assuming it's done legally), right?
I think the consumption of lab grown human meat should probably be illegal.
The hunt to find the most delicious human cell sample could get ugly, very quickly. Which races and nationalities taste the best? Farm raised or city bread? Do young babies give best cell samples? How would you feel if you, personally, ended up being the hottest new flavor? Would human meat eaters become a class of people protected against bias and hatred? Some Polynesian tribes would ritualistically eat their enemies, would that be a war crime? What happens if I consent to be someone else's dinner? Is someone allowed to offer me a million dollars to become their meal?
First, to answer the primary question, I don't care. I enthusiastically support the work towards lab-grown meat. The day I can buy a reasonably priced lab-grown burger (or fish/chicken/human sandwich), is the day I quit being vegetarian.
If for some weird reason, lab-grown human meat were to be much cheaper/easier to do, then I'd be all for it.
In all likelihood, however, it'll probably never be more than a tiny exotic/fetish market for lab-grown human meat, which I'm also fine with.
However, on a more 'meta' note, I just wanted to comment on how much response this particular question has generated. I don't think I even have a point to make ... just interesting how much this subject still stirs people up.
I think I would. I don't really feel like there is any ethical problem with it at all, it was grown in a lab, not from a human directly. I would only eat it one time just out of curiosity, unless it was like the best thing ever, but I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with it. There is a little bit of weirdness to it, but eating animal meat is already pretty weird and I think lab grown human meat would be more ethical than regular animal meat, which I already eat.
I would not; I think that we probably don't want to encourage people to think about humans as delicious in the case of scarcity of lab grown meat.
There's nothing wrong with eating lab grown meat of whatever variety, but I'm 99.9% sure that this would lead to a non-zero number of cases of people murdering people and eating them.
That's what I would fear as well. Like someone gets hooked on human bacon and decides they want to try the real thing.
If we're already talking about mentally disturbed people, how is this any different from currently existing murderer/cannibals? Someone who is willing to kill someone is willing to kill someone.
If we're going to go down that rabbit hole, we should probably look at analogous things instead. Do people kill in order to get other types of food? As far as I can tell this just doesn't happen.
Sure you could get 'hooked', but this isn't a drug and even in the case of drugs its rare people will actually kill in order to get a drug. They might kill because they are forced to turn to crime to get money to pay for drugs and something goes wrong, but it's usually not their first intent.
Follow up question, what should I call my lab-grown human meat restaurant? Donner Party? Eat Me? MEat?
Edit: Bon Labetite?
Edit 2 : VATitude?
Edit 3: Bob's Burgers - not possessive, short for Bob Is Burgers
The Petri Dish
That's the name of the fictional book with cannibal recipes in the game Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead.
The phrase and concept comes from an episode of The Twilight Zone and the short story it's based on
How is 'Soylent' not already on your list?
Yes, I realize there already is a real Soylent company, but if anyone ever had a legitimate 'fair-use' challenge (or whatever is the proper legal term), it would be the first real "people serving people" business.
It seemed way too obvious. "To Serve Man" has a long and venerable history that's a little more obscure than I think it should be.
I probably wouldn't....mad cow came about from forced cow cannibalism....I can't imagine that long-term consumption of human flesh would be any better for us.
Mad cow (Kuru in humans, a.k.a Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) is caused by infectious proteins called prions. In artificial meat this would not be a problem and at the very least would be tested for among during quality control, as with all food for human consumption.
If you don't want Kreutzfeld-Jacob or other prion diseases, just don't culture or consume neural tissue.
On a different technical note, one of the biggest problems with lab tissue culture is Mycoplasma contamination. This potentially pathogenic family of organisms is ubiquitous and hardy in the environment. They're difficult and expensive to detect even when you're specifically looking for them; most labs currently use prophylactic antibiotics to keep their cell lines clean.
Not sure I'd trust industrial agriculture for this.
One thing nobody pointed out: supposing we can easily produce artificial bull, chicken, etc, why the hell would we make human meat for us to eat? I mean, what would be the motivation? Apart from a hypothetical thought experiment, in which situation would we make artificial human meat for human consumption instead of, say, pork?
Novelty, "perfect nutrition", and possibly taste? I can absolutely see a cult-like following for human meat among bodybuilders and performance athletes.
With the simplest words I know, Why not? You could compare this with sex dolls or video games (Albeit with less serious ethical concerns than the former, far less diverse applications than the latter and less serious potential consequences than either of them.) Why not just get a girlfriend or play a sport outside? It's just a game, or meat, or a life-sized doll.
In an emergency, yes, no problem. I don't see it as an ethical question, any more so than any lab-grown product. My main issue is that, as a long time vegetarian, I have learned that I really can't digest meat at this point (accidentally had a piece of quiche last spring that had meat in it, was sick for days). So, yes, for survival. But that places it on an even field with the rest. Whatever was closest in reach.