That whole “eating meat is natural” argument just went out the window.
This is the conclusion of an investigation by the Food Standards Agency that originally was looking for evidence of milk from the offspring of cloned cows. The Agency has stated definitively that no milk was ever found.
The investigation was sparked by an anonymous farmer who told the International Herald Tribune that he had sold milk from the offspring of a cloned cow. This understandably caused a contentious debate about not just the possible health risks of consuming products from cloned livestock, or the offspring thereof, but also about the ethics of cloning.
It isn’t surprising that people are easily startled by the thought of unknowingly buying products from clones, given the relative youth of the science of cloning. I’m young and Dolly was cloned in my lifetime. This is new science that we don’t fully understand.
To be fair, no evidence has shown there are health risks associated with cloned livestock — the meat that was sold was from the offspring of clones, nor from clones themselves.
Despite this, however, a poll showed that 76 percent of consumers in the UK would not knowingly buy meat or dairy from cloned cows. Is anyone surprised there is an innate distrust for something that is so obviously unnatural?
Truthfully though, is cloning really that much more unnatural than any of a dozen other things humans do to animals they raise for food? There’s very little about modern animal agriculture that would seem “natural” to your average person. Veal calves live for about fourteen weeks and spend that short time confined in a box so purposefully small, the calves cannot move. This is done because their meat is more tender and delicious if their muscles are malnourished and atrophied.
One of the animals in this investigation was in fact a veal calf.
The shock value of a story about cloned meat entering the food chain draws much needed attention to the fact that the animal agriculture industry is perverse, wholly profit-driven, and unconcerned with the lives of the animals they slaughter — or the people whose health they destroy in the process.
We can only wonder how many news stories the average consumer will have to read before he or she takes a serious look at the ways in which animal products are manufactured. Cloning is shocking, but in the end, probably doesn’t pose a serious health risk beyond those already posed by a diet heavy in animal proteins.
There has been plenty of debate about whether cloning livestock is unethical, but could anything be any more unethical than how livestock is already raised? By the time you enumerate the various horrors of the animal agriculture industry, from dehorning to debeaking, castration to branding, veal crates to rape racks, cloning seems like a moot point.
If you are horrified at the idea of eating cloned meat, perhaps you might consider whether or not you would still be eating animal products if you knew the reality of the factory farming practices that bring you the meat you’re already eating.
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