The battle to end factory farming will need to embrace a range of potential solutions. Some of these are tried and tested, like free range and organic farming. Others are more futuristic. I’m convinced cultured meat will have an important role to play. It’s produced by taking cells from a donor animal, which are then multiplied in a vat on a nutrient soaked scaffold. According to New Harvest, an organisation funding work in the US and Europe, a single cell could in theory produce enough meat to feed the global population for a year.
In addition to cultured meat, there are a number of other futuristic ways of producing food, some of them as abhorrent as the factory farm systems they seek to replace. For example, Wired magazine recently reported on a proposal to grow chickens whose cerebral cortexes are removed and their bodies attached to a network of tubes. ‘Food, water and air would be delivered via a network of tubes and excrement would be removed in the same way’, the magazine reported. Other similarly extreme ideas include blind chickens, who, it is argued, wouldn’t mind being packed together, and headless chickens, whose stationary bodies would simply lay eggs.
When factory farming emerged after World War II as a supposedly cheap way to produce food, our understanding of animals and their sentiency was limited. As ethologists, animal behaviourists and others who studied animals began to document their studies, scientific knowledge of animal sentience began to grow. It provided the evidence necessary to support what common sense already tells us; that animals are sentient beings, they feel pain and suffer.
A huge battle was won when the EU gave legal recognition to animal sentience in the 1990s. It’s been strengthened recently as an Article in the Lisbon Treaty.
What concerns me about these ideas to produce animals without heads, brains or without sight is that it undermines the essential respect for animals and takes us into new and deeply worrying territory. And it’s so unnecessary. That is why Compassion is calling for a common sense approach to feeding the world; Food Sense. A better, more common-sense approach is not only achievable, to me it’s essential.