A thought strikes me – would it be OK to eat meat if it came from an ‘animal’ without a nervous system (central or otherwise)? This may seem a silly question to ask because all the animals whose meat we eat actually does have a nervous system, but what if our understanding of biochemistry were to improve to the point where we could – say – grow a steak without growing a cow? Or if we could knock out a combination of genes in an animal which produce its nervous system and get an animal to give birth to what is essentially just a meat sack? My feeling is that even a vegetarian would have to agree that the former is acceptable, although possibly not the latter.
The second question that follows on from this is: would it be OK to eat meat from an actual animal if it was possible to grow its meat without killing a whole animal? My feeling on this is that in this circumstance nobody could justify killing and eating animals.
So are we destined for a future of ethical meat eating?
Postscript: The other question this raises is: what about animals with a minimal nervous system like a snail say? How do vegetarians feel about eating these? A snail has about 20k neurons compared to about 100k for a fruit fly, 1m for a cockroach, 21m for a rat and 300bn for a human – according to this unsourced wikipedia entry. It seems to me that if you’re willing to swat a fly you should be willing to eat a snail.
Post-postscript: One other question raised is would it be ethical to eat human meat that had been grown in this way? Anyone for ethical cannibalism?