u Notes from the Underground: On the morality of non-vegetarianism

On the morality of non-vegetarianism

Friday, August 24, 2007

The subject of animal rights has come up again, but I don't even have a definitive opinion on animal rights (let alone the definitive argument), so I'll talk about a slightly different issue - killing animals for meat. I am quite against the killing of animals for meat (or for any other reason other than self-survival, basically), and especially factory farming. I am against it, but not enough to say that the govt. should step in and outlaw factory farming (partly because I am a libertarian, the type who sees unintended consequences everywhere).

However, non-vegans can soon be spared the nagging moral doubt that they are doing something horrible everytime they're eating meat. The solution is cloning of animal meat tissue using stem cells. Here's Ray Kurzweil, a visionary if there ever existed one, on the benefits of stem cell cloning:

Another exciting opportunity is to create meat without animals. As with therapeutic cloning, we would not be creating the entire animal, but rather directly producing the desired animal parts or flesh. Essentially, all of the meat--billions of pounds of it--would in essence be from a single animal. What's the point of doing this? For one thing, we could eliminate human hunger. By creating meat in this way, it becomes subject to the "law of accelerating returns," which is the exponential improvements in price-performance of information-based technologies over time. So meat produced in this way will ultimately be extremely inexpensive. It could cost less than one percent of conventionally produced meat. Even though hunger in the world today is certainly exacerbated by political issues and conflicts, meat will become so inexpensive that it will have a profound effect on the affordability of food. [link]

Disregard all the hyperbole about "the law of accelerating returns" and solving human hunger in one fell swoop. The basic point is that using stem cell cloning can be used to produce meat much more efficiently than it is today, and besides it will solve the problem of animal flatulence contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Once meat can be produced this way, factory farming will stop and people will accept much more easily that killing animals for food or pleasure is just plain wrong.

To me, this is a classic example of how technology can make moral progress (in addition to material progress i.e.) possible where all the preaching in the world wouldn't get you there.


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