In this week’s New Yorker, there’s a story about lab-grown meat (subscription required). Much of the article centers on the reaction of animal rights activists to the idea of lab-grown meat, and includes this sentence:
“Some vegetarians would object even to using two animal cells, and the fetal-calf serum would present a bigger problem still.”
So this got me thinking: Most vegetarians are probably pro-choice (guessing based on loose self-identified liberal/conservative swings). But if a human fetus is not “alive” until later in the gestation process, would it be OK to eat a cow fetus? I mean, it’s no more developed than a fertilized chicken egg, right? (Forget vegans for now.) Or is it more like an organ, an essential living piece of an animal that cannot be removed without harming the animal in question?
As the title indicates, this is not snarky. I am wondering how much the moral objection to eating animals is based on a visceral reaction of an animal-looking thing to be eaten (cow fetus) versus a more benign image (chicken fetus), and how much it is based on the animal product’s use (eating) versus a more unique irreplaceable use (embryonic stem cells). (Let’s leave aside general objections to factory farming.)