Monday, October 30, 2017

Questions America Wants Answered: Is Eating Lab Grown Human Flesh Cannibalism?

Combining a couple themes from the weekend's posts:
Seven Startups Creating Lab-Grown Meat 
Soylent Banned In Canada
Thanks (I think) to a reader.

From Gizmodo, October 16:

Is Eating Synthetic Human Flesh Cannibalism? 
A disgusting factor which separates consuming human flesh from consuming muscle tissue of non-speaking animals is that you can’t separate eating dead humans from eating live humans. In the way that you call a baby cow “veal” or a pig “pork,” human flesh is just human flesh—you wouldn’t think about eating Dave’s “rounds” or his “snout,” you would think about eating Dave’s ass and face.
But what about consuming cloned, lab-grown human flesh? The very idea is fictional (specifically, in Brandon Cronenberg’s 2013 sci-fi horror Antiviral, for example) and we are far from the future where this is possible. But is eating cloned human tissue technically cannibalism?

And, hypothetically, what about synthetic human meat, grown without a genetic human donor? Even lab-grown animal meat hasn’t reached that goal yet. As of this summer, lab-grown beef still originates from “fetal bovine serum”—the blood of cow fetuses removed live from their slaughtered mothers and have their blood drained from their beating hearts until they die. (Hampton Creek claims it is attempting to approximate meat cells from its “plant library.” Mark Post, co-founder of Mosa Meats famous for introducing the first cultured hamburger, tells Gizmodo cryptically that researchers are looking at “harmless cells,” for example cells from feathers. “My guess is that they we will gradually move towards an animal-free way of producing meat, but thus far this is not possible with the current state of technology without using gene technology.”)

But imagine that lab-grown human calf muscle appears in a petri dish without involving a human fetus. Is consuming a synthetic human burger cannibalistic? Or does it become just a burger?
William Miller
Author of Anatomy of Disgust, professor of law, expert in Icelandic studies
I think a real cannibal would be appalled at eating such crap. A cannibal has to, or wants to, or is obliged to eat flesh from a real human. That’s what we call a cannibal. At least, I’m thinking of two cultural types of cannibalism recorded in the anthropological literature: One where you kind of take in the soul of your enemy [a wartime custom practiced by various peoples], and the other where you actually eat your relatives as part of a religious obligation and it would be rather ritualized [such as the Wari’ from Brazil].
In either case, there’s a reason for you doing it that gives sense to what you’re doing that is not just of the cheap thrill variety, you know? This test tube human flesh you propose to serve up is just a kind of moral cop-out, It’s [a moral cop-out] like using potato flour for Passover to make pastries that mimic fully the very food you are not supposed to eat.
One of the reasons that your question creeps me out is you’re just faced with the fact that you’re somehow taking yourself out of the natural world by eating that... A lot of the things that I find kind of gut-wrenchingly disgusting are sci-fi futures that are kind of a restructuring what the normal is in human existence because medical and biological science has gotten so sophisticated that it can do things that we were never meant to be able to do and really should not be done.
...I think it’s like what people sneer at as first world problems. These are the kind of very trivial moral issues that too bored, too rich produce, because our technological know how has outstripped, or is even harming, our already decaying moral sensibility. That said:
It’s not like people didn’t worry about what they ate once they had enough to eat. I mean, culture itself, our first cultural rules, are basically to regulate who you can screw and what you can eat, right?
Jacob Appel
Bioethicist and author of The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up

The question of whether or not such a practice would be cannibalism is probably best left to a linguist or a culinary authority....MORE, actually quite a bit more. 
Previously in Cannibal Studies:

News You Can Use: "In a Heated Negotiation? Try Eating Like Your Opponent"
I initially misread the headline as "Try eating your opponent" an error I ascribe to the current political climate and the memory of Alferd Packer, Colorado's most famous cannibal, about whom the sentencing judge said:
"Stand up yah voracious man-eatin' sonofabitch and receive yir sintince. When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. But you, yah et five of 'em, goddam yah. I sintince yah t' be hanged by th' neck ontil yer dead, dead, dead, as a warnin' ag'in reducin' th' Dimmycratic populayshun of this county. Packer, you Republican cannibal, I would sintince ya ta hell but the statutes forbid it."
This is not the first time Alferd has graced our pages. He was an endnote to 2015's "Trapped In the Snow With That Brother-In-Law Who Won't Stop Talking? Consider the Cannibal Lifestyle" where we pointed out the University of Colorado-Boulder student center was home to the Alferd Packer Restaurant & Grill.

Prior to that he showed up in a 2007 post on global warming:
UFO science key to halting climate change: former Canadian defense minister
Anyhoo, here's the headline story, our second of the day from ChicagoBoothReview...

Trapped In the Snow With That Brother-In-Law Who Won't Stop Talking? Consider the Cannibal Lifestyle

"Bite Me: An evolutionary case for cannibalism

"Ghost Ship Filled With Cannibal Rats Could Crash Into British Coast" (oh, and the rats are diseased)