Sergey Brin, the Google founder, innovator, and billionaire, craved a burger, but wanted to hold the suffering and the slaughter. Yesterday, the news broke that Brin – a primary driver in one of the most revolutionary developments in the modern era, developing new ways of aggregating information and searching for it – funded research to create meat in a laboratory setting by growing animal tissue from stem cells. In short, he has designs for a new way of growing meat, without the killing, the inefficient use of feed grains, and the waste generated by billions of animals. He said the high costs of meat, especially when it comes to the environment, are not workable for our society.
And yesterday, the slaughter lines didn’t get revved up in Sigourney, Iowa, or Roswell, N.M. – but it wasn’t as a consequence of a scientific breakthrough. It was a legal proceeding that stayed slaughter. On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, in favor of The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue, along with New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, former Governor Bill Richardson, and Robert Redford, and halted horse slaughter plants from opening operations in the United States for the first time in six years.
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
That federal court action provides a reprieve, but not a final answer. The judge will see the opposing parties in court about a month from now, and take a deeper dive into the arguments. Meanwhile, Congress has language pending in an annual spending bill to defund federal inspections of horse slaughter plants. And there are also bills in the House and Senate to ban the slaughter and export of American horses for human consumption at home or abroad.
The HSUS has an interest in all of these matters. On horse slaughter, we’ve long opposed it. Horses aren’t raised for slaughter, and we don’t favor the way they are gathered up from random sources or how they’re treated throughout the long-distance transport and slaughter process. We think people who acquire horses should be responsible owners.
Regarding the tissue-culture meat, we’ve long been concerned about the nation’s 50-year, failed experiment with factory farming. While it has provided cheap meat to consumers (while externalizing its aggregate costs to society), it’s been a calamity for animals, for the environment, for family farmers, and for rural communities. We’ve got to find our way through it, with a combination of putting more traditional family farmers on the land, getting the animals out of extreme confinement, eating more plant-based foods, and, perhaps, switching to more tissue-cultured meat, when it becomes commercially viable.
There won’t be any single antidote to factory farming. But we do have a major problem, and we need creative attention to it. Treating billions of animals like commodities, jamming them into small cages and crates, feeding vast amounts of grains to them, allowing them to generate massive amounts of waste or gases, and driving family farmers out of business is neither humane nor sustainable. We need a new way forward.