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What is Synthesised Cannibalism?

Nov 29 2017 Comments 0

While chicken, beef and fish are given the all clear, some types of meats simply don't sit well. From horse to dog, most menus have their limits. But now, some scientists are predicting that a radical new food trend could be about to emerge. It's known as "synthesised cannibalism" and could soon see the world tucking into juicy, cruelty free burgers crafted from lab-grown human meat.

“In the West, this is a huge taboo,” comments Dr. Bill Schutt, author of Eat Me: A Natural and Unnatural History of Cannibalism. “Especially the medicinal cannibalism that took place relatively recently in Europe. I think it was something that people probably weren’t particularly proud of, once they discovered that modern medicine had better solutions than eating body parts.”

The perks of synthetic meat

One of the biggest benefits would be a significant reduction in cost. Meat is an expensive product, with price points determined by the huge amount of cash that's channelled into breeding and sustaining livestock. Overcoming ethical and cruelty issues is another big selling point, with a team of scientists from Maastricht University in the Netherlands recently proving that it is possible to grow animal meat in laboratories using little more than cell cultures. There are also exciting environmental benefits on the table, with recent FAO statistics suggesting that the global livestock industry accounts for 7.1 gigatonnes of Co2 a year. This represents a huge 14.5% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. So, from an economic perspective lab-grown humans could represent a host of benefits.

Considering the "yuk factor"

While there is a serious "yuk factor" to consider, some experts maintain that technically there's nothing wrong with eating lab-grown humans.

Dr. John Loike, director of special programmes at Columbia’s Centre for Bioethics muses, “The yuck factor is an emotional, not necessarily logical, response."

Are humans disease ridden?

Of course, human-to-human cannibalism is laced with controversy. As well as being unethical, consuming genuine human meat can pass on deadly diseases. In the late 1950s researchers confirmed that cannibalism in Papua New Guinea triggered muscle spasms and seizures, as well as brain deterioration. The UK has also reported similar findings, with a spike in transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases blamed on an increase in the use of cow remains as cattle feed. Basically, same species consumption is associated with a string of health problems.

So, while lab-grown animal meat could eventually materialise as a new staple, it's unlikely that humans will ever emerge on the menu.

From Columbia’s Centre for Bioethics to Maastricht University, research institutions play a critical role in advancing modern science. For a behind the scenes glimpse at one of the UK's top institutions don't miss 'Wide Eyed with Wonder: University of Nottingham Open their Doors to the Community.'

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