Ingrid Newskirk: Victimless Meat at the Vegetarian Steakhouse
to the Vegetarian Steakhouse. This
isn’t Outback or Morton’s or Charlie Brown’s
or Lone Star. If you’re hankerin’ for a 100% free-range
Angus beefburger here, get out. The clientele wouldn’t approve.
You might as well announce that you’re a junkie with an addiction
to swallowing decomposing flesh.
ADDICTION, you say?
else is it,” says Ingrid
Newkirk, “if you know something that you do is unhealthy,
dirty and cruel, but you keep on doing it?”
the president and co-founder of People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is a vegetarian
with an edge. "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment
on or use for entertainment," reads her organization’s
commandment-like mission statement.
is murder, I am told. According to the Smiths, "Heifer
whines could be human cries," But from my booth at the Vegetarian
Steakhouse, I can swear I hear Newkirk ordering the flesh that
many of us so fancifully fry.
right. The activist who encouraged the pelting of fashion
show fur coats with fake blood, helped bring about the first-ever felony
charges for abuse on a factory farm, and teamed with Pamela
Anderson — of über breast fame — for a KFC
boycott (against, what else, chicken torture) just said she’s
willing to do the unimaginable: Eat meat. Not only that, PETA,
the 850,000 member nonprofit she co-founded in 1980, would endorse
grade of meat, however, won’t be ground round, prime cut,
or Original Recipe chicken breast. The tasty nuggets she plans
to stick in her mouth will be whipped-up
by biotechnologists and grown
in a lab — an
incredible simulation that will have all the properties of the
real thing except one: no animals were harmed in the making of
enough. But Newkirk is ready to go farther to further her faux carnivore-ism.
She’s prepared to put her own cells on the laboratory line.
of our interests is in making a 'Newkirk Nugget,'— of my
own flesh.” Newkirk says. “We have the name patented."
Nuggets™ haven’t hit the supermarket shelves yet. The tissue-engineering technology
is in its infancy. So far, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs
has allotted € 2 million for a four-year
university research project and a scientific team at Touro
College in New York City has removed chunks of live
muscle tissue from freshly killed goldfish, growing them in
a cell-culture fluid for a week. That experimental tissue grew
is impressed. But her goal is 100% Grade A victimless.
killing one fish to make a million fish fillets is better than
killing a million or a half a million fish whose eyes pop out in
the nets and who suffocate in agony on fishing fleet boat decks,” she
So, how far away are we from dining on totally victimless Halibut,
Trout, Lamb, Pork, Veal or Newkirk?
one can say. Meat is primarily bundled muscle cells sprinkled with
fat and connective tissue cells. Cells called myoblasts, which
are capable of dividing at a extraordinarily rapid rate, are the
key to advancing victimless meat technology. Making large sheets
of no-kill meat is not an easy task.
has been looking into victimless meat-tech for the last eight years.
Initially, they checked out research in Sweden, but the rights
were locked up in a legal dispute. Then, two years ago, PETA funded
Vladimir Mironov, director of the Shared
Tissue Engineering Lab at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Mironov is working toward the day when a countertop
kitchen appliance, something like a bread machine,
will churn out sausage or hamburger — just
add muscle stem cells, a growth medium, and an
edible structure for the cells to grow on,
and voila. Bon appetite.
A carnivore once
told me that his ancestors didn’t climb to the top of the
food chain to eat carrots and sprouts. A victimless sausage link
might be just the thing for him. And he’d be welcome at the
Vegetarian Steakhouse, provided he followed the rules.
people are unable to break their meat addiction, then let’s
give them the least cruelly produced meat possible,” Newkirk
says. “We are all in favor of anything that reduces the sum
total of pain and suffering in the world.”
course, Newkirk’s venture into meat consumption would depend
on its genuine victimlessness.
instance, an art project used rat skin from discarded rats from
a lab to grow rat
leather,” Newkirk says. “Those rats could have
been re-homed after their lab ordeal, so we don’t consider
that victimless. Similarly, the same project used frog
tissue to grow tissue-engineered frog legs for a French exhibit,
but the frogs were hurt and killed in the process. However, we
are not purists, but pragmatists. If I thought I could get one
person who wouldn’t go vegetarian to switch to tissue-engineered
meat, I’d eat some on a bet that encouragement would compel
them to switch.”
about virtual self-cannibalism? Would Newkirk eat her lab-grown
yourself is supposed to be almost impossible for your digestion
to handle,” Newkirk says. “But eating other humans
is not. Sure, humans can certainly be victimless meat as they can
consent to the procedure if the procedure is ever perfected. And
I’m not opposed on religious or any other grounds to eating
the dead, if the dead are roadkill or died in an Andes plane crash
and you need to eat them to survive. I don’t see an ethical
issue there. It is a matter of whether or not there is a true victim,
someone who is used and hurt and killed against their own best
interests — hence, Newkirk Nuggets.”
why stop there? What about Pamela Ham?
Pamela Anderson involvement in PETA promotions, it’s only
a matter of time and expertise before a food conglomerate with
their eye on mass market sex appeal — Hormel, Kraft or Oscar
Meyer – will want to persuade the star of Stacked to
let the common folk taste her. Honey-baked Pamela Anderson. Is
this a great environmental marketing concept, or what?
Central American rain forests are being destroyed at a mind-boggling
rate to create
grazing land for beef cattle. Here in the US, more than 260
million acres of forests have been mowed-down to grow crops
to feed animals raised for meat. An acre of trees disappears every
eight seconds. I say save a tree, eat a celebrity.
there’s the water issue. It takes 2,500 gallons of water
to produce a pound of meat, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound
of wheat. And don’t even bring up that raising edible animals
causes more water pollution than any other industry in the U.S.
Did someone say Anna Nicole Burgers?
the end of our discussion Newkirk asks me “Why isn’t
the government pouring funding into this, instead of subsidizing
unhealthy, energy intensive, water and land resource depleting
and polluting, meat and diary subsidies.”
don’t know, but maybe it’s time to pitch victimless
meat to Ronald MacDonald, Carl Karcher and the Burger King. God
willing, the day may come when the only meat we eat will be our
for me, I’ll have the Newkirk… well done.
Callahan, November 3, 2005