Richard Dawkins says lab-grown human 'meat' could help people overcome 'taboo against cannibalism'

(YouTube/Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science)Atheist author Richard Dawkins appears in a screen capture of a YouTube video from Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has drawn controversy after he suggested last week that eating lab-grown human "meat" could help people overcome the "taboo against cannibalism."

In a tweet on March 3, Dawkins shared an article published by The Independent titled "Lab-grown clean meat could be on sale by end of 2018, says producer."

The article describes "clean meat" as a food product made from stem cells harvested from animals and grown in a lab, but there is no mention of growing human meat. Dawkins, however, appeared to suggest that the same thing could be done for humans if only people could get over the "taboo" of cannibalism.

"Tissue culture 'clean meat' already in 2018?" the famed atheist tweeted. "I've long been looking forward to this. ... What is human meat is grown? Could we overcome our taboo against cannibalism? An interesting test case for consequentialist morality versus 'yuck reaction' absolutism," he continued.

Dawkins' remarks drew varied reactions on social media, with some users bringing up references to "Soylent Green," a 1973 film in which the government feeds people with rations of green food products that were famously revealed at the end of the movie to be human remains.

"I don't think I could get past the cannibalism taboo, not because of absolutism but because of sheer visceral reaction, and I think a lot of other people would be the same way. I'd try it, but I would gag for sure," one person said, according to The Washington Times.

The process of growing clean meat has been hailed by some environmentalists as the key to reducing global warming, while animal rights groups like PETA have contributed large sums of money to such projects.

According to a recent study, a third of Americans are willing to eat lab-grown meat regularly or as a replacement for farmed meat.

However, the cost of mass production will need to go down before such products can enter the market. Memphis Meats, a food technology company based in San Francisco, had reportedly spent around $2,400 to create 450 grams of beef, according to the Independent.

But the company believes that its products will be made available to the market by 2021 as the techniques become more streamlined, bringing down the cost of production.

Josh Tetrick, CEO of clean meat manufacturer JUST, had predicted that chicken nuggets, sausage and foie gras created in a lab could be served in restaurants in Asia "before the end of 2018."

However, he admitted that bringing cultured meat into the market still faces many obstacles such as communication and regulatory issues.

Professor Mark Post, the chief scientific officer at Mosa Meat, which was responsible for creating the world's first cultured hamburger, said that the regulatory approval process could delay the distribution of samples to suppliers by years.

He predicted that it would take three years before the company, whose lab is based at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, could sell its first product to the mass market.

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