In a move that may overcome the cruelty problem of raising and killing animals for meat, Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands has pioneered the technique of growing meat independently of an animal by the cultivation of stem cells.
The pieces of muscle are made by extracting stem cells from cow muscle tissue and growing them in containers in a laboratory. The cells are grown in a culture medium containing foetal calf serum, which contains the nutrients the cells need to grow. The nutrients in the meat itself need to come from another source, Post will use algae to produce the amino acids, sugars and fats necessary to produce a nutritious flesh. The strips of muscle are cultivated between pieces of Velcro and flex and contract as they develop. To improve the texture of the tissue and make more protein in the cells the samples are periodically shocked with an electric current.
The problems for which this is a solution are summed up rather concisely in this abstract of a paper called ‘Advances, Challenges and Prospects for Cultivation of Tissue-Engineered Meat’ that Dr Post presented in February this year:
Traditional meat production through livestock is rapidly reaching its limits. Worldwide, meat consumption is projected to double in the coming 40 years (source WHO) and already we are using more than 50% – 70% of all the agricultural land for meat production. It has also become clear that livestock contributes appreciably to the emission of greenhouse gases such as methane and CO2. Last, the public objection against cruelty to animals will eventually favor a market for cruelty free meat …
From all livestock, cows and pigs are the least efficient meat producers with a bioconversion rate of 15%. Through breeding and feeding, the bioconversion rate has reached its upper limit. This inefficiency provides us with a margin to improve meat production provided we move beyond the traditional boundaries of livestock.
As of 1 July 2010, the use of any animal in a circus has been banned in Bolivia. A handful of other countries have banned the use of wild animals in circuses but only Bolivia has banned exploitation of domestic animals in circuses as well.
The Bolivian law, which states that the use of all animals in circuses ‘constitutes an act of cruelty’ was enacted on 1 July 2009, with operators given a year to comply.
The bill took two years to pass through both chambers of the Plurinational Assembly, meeting stiff opposition from the eastern states of Bolivia where there was concern that the law would be expanded to include bullfighting, which is popular in rural villages. Bullfighting remains legal in Bolivia.
The legislature were eventually won over by a screening of videos shot by undercover circus infiltrators in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia co-ordinated and funded by Animal Defence International (ADI), a London-based NGO which found that ill-treatment and violence against animals in circuses is commonplace.
Bullfighting was banned in the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia on 28 July this year, with the ban coming into full effect in 2012.
Now, three months to the day later, the Spanish Constitutional Court (housed in a rather Beehive-esque building) has accepted an appeal lodged by the Partido Popular (People’s Party, PP) challenging Catalonia’s ban on cultural, economic and administrative grounds. The PP is a conservative, nationalist party known for such other legislative projects as restricting immigration to Catalonia and deporting immigrants who have not learnt the Catalan language to proposed minimum standards.
by Susy Pryde
Doth the hawk fly by Thy wisdom and stretch her wings toward the south?
Book of Job (39:26)
With the Easter holidays approaching, chances are our family will join the ‘kiwi’ holiday migration for a bit of a lie around with a novel, aiming to accomplish nothing in particular for a few days. Technically it is not a necessary ritual though we do consider it a retreat to a more hospitable habitat.
But what if migrating at certain times of the year was necessary for our survival, as is the case in the animal kingdom? Imagine coordinating an epic journey over weeks or even months, crossing multiple borders or oceans in order to breed, find food, or escape seasonal changes. Continue reading
by Susy Pryde
‘Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war’
– William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)
My brother in law rang my husband recently, to ask if the film, Avatar, would be too scary for their six year-old daughter. The cynic in me queried how a well-reasoned answer could come from dialing our number; we’re child-free and the source of such hoped for wisdom was from a man who abandoned a six year-old’s perspective decades ago. To his credit, he managed to point out that the story is set against large-scale war. So, there are graphic scenes of flaming horses caught in the crossfire of battle. That might be somewhat disturbing. At least, he added, it would be for a six year-old girl with a growing ‘My Little Pony’ toy collection.
While the boys tailed off into discussions of war, I dwelled on the plight of animals in war: The collateral damage of human conflicts. Not long ago I began reading an historical account of animals used for military purposes. As far back as 2100 BC, Hammurabi, the sixth King of Babylon and first known author of a written code of law (the Code of Hammurabi), championed the first known use of animals in warfare. He employed large dogs to fight alongside his elite warriors. Continue reading