In a recent editorial, the New York Times mused on a world where meat is grown in vitro in a lab. While acknowleding their “disgust” at the methods used by the modern meat industry in the U.S., the editors lamented the potential loss of farm animals. I mused on this, too, and came up with these thoughts, which I shared with the Times’ Letters Editor:
Re “Million Dollar Meat” (April 23, 2008), you state that “it will be a barren world if the herds and flocks disappear” in favor of meat grown in a lab. But the facts suggest otherwise. The livestock sector “may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity,” according to a 2006 UN report. Today, 30 percent of Earth’s land is used to raise animals for meat and dairy production; once this was habitat for wildlife. The livestock sector is the major cause of deforestation around the world. The cattle population in the Amazon has reached a new high and rates of clearing are rising. So, land without livestock won’t be barren for long. It would be repopulated by other forms of life. Surely most non-human species, along with many of us, would find that a welcome change.
In Costa Rica, the bottom fell out of the beef market years ago and government policies encouraged some former ranch land (once rainforest)to be left alone. Now, in many former pastures, the forest and some species have come back. Unaided. Something to muse on, too.