The woolly mammoths are making a comeback. Should we eat them?

The woolly mammoths are making a comeback.  Should we eat them?
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AAnd what hairy beast, its time finally come, stoops down to a laboratory to be born?

About 3,900 years ago, on the Siberian mainland, the last woolly mammoth he breathed for the last time. Since then, humans have known mammoths only through their remains: scattered bones and a small number of frozen carcasses, complete with the tattered remnants of once-shaggy fur. These remains have provoked, for centuries, our curiosity, curiosity that one day could be satisfied. Colossal Biosciences, a Texas-based startup, is using genetic engineering in its quest to bring the species back to life.

“The woolly mammoth was the custodian of a healthier planet,” says the company. Using rescued mammoth DNA, Colossal will genetically edit Asian elephants, the closest cousin of the species. If his plans are successful, he will produce a woolly mammoth, or as close a replica as possible, within six years. This year, the company has raised $75 million from investors.

Thus, some 3,906 years after it thought it had seen our backs, the woolly mammoth could be reunited with humans, a species that has never seen a large mammal that did not like the idea of ​​eating. Their extinction It wasn’t just our fault, the end of the ice age vastly reduced the size of its potential habitat, but, as some paleontologists argue, prehistory is littered with bodies of megafauna that we’ve eaten to extinction. Giant sloths, giant armadillos, giant wolves… whoever was featuring planet Earth in those days he would have had to remain vigilant.

Given the apparent progress in the field of mammoth reconstitution, we might as well answer the obvious question: should we eat them? Colossal hasn’t mentioned this prospect, focusing instead on the environmental benefits of gigantic restoration: The animal’s heavy gait thickens permafrost, or the permanently frozen layer of soil, gravel, and sand below the Earth’s surface, preventing it from melt and release greenhouse gases. . “If the Mammoth Steppe ecosystem could be revived,” the company argues, “it could help reverse rapid climate warming and, more urgently, protect Arctic permafrost, one of the world’s largest carbon stores.”

Still, one wonders if people will be tempted to try, just as their ancestors did. We’ll have to decide at some point if we, too, want to eat woolly mammoths, and indeed any other species we choose to resurrect. would you eat them?

Holly Whitelaw, director of Regenerative Food and Farming, says she would be up for it. “I would eat anything that was holistically pastured,” she says Whitelaw. Roaming animals, she says, are healthy for the soil; they distribute seeds and microbes as they roam. The healthier the Arctic soil, the more grassland it supports and the more carbon is removed from the atmosphere. “It’s like bringing back the wolves,” says Whitelaw. “You make that whole level of the system work better again.”

It would be a great tragedy if we brought these majestic individuals back to our time only to use and exploit them for our own benefit.

Victoria Herridge, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum and an expert on woolly mammoths, has urged caution. In undertaking this type of environmental project, Dr. Herridge said The Telegraph“You are conducting a bioengineering experiment that, if your goal is [met], will create a change on a global scale. It becomes a question of: who can manipulate the planet’s climate system?

speaking to the independent, Dr. Herridge raised additional concerns about the provenance of these mammoths. “I have a problem with anything to do with surrogate mothers,” she says. Genetically modified mammoth amalgams will gestate inside Asian elephants, risking them significant pain and medical risks.

These are objections to the project itself, rather than to the idea of ​​eating mammoth meat at the end of it. Dr. Herridge sees this scenario as unlikely, but she does come up with a hypothetical scenario in which she would consider eating mammoth meat. “Fast forward 100 years. She imagines that Siberia is not a god, there is a place for woolly elephants to roam, they are not wading through a mosquito-infested swamp. Let’s say they have managed to raise 20,000 woolly elephants at this point. They have roamed Banff and are wreaking havoc, and to maintain that population they had to do an annual slaughter. Would you reject it? No. But there are so many caveats.”

Whitelaw says that the pasture-raised mammoth would have a good ratio of omega:3 to omega:6 fats, making it a good dietary choice. With this in mind, it’s easy to imagine Paleo enthusiasts meeting consumer demand. However, Dr. Herridge is again skeptical. “The idea that you can have a diet that goes back to this ancient way is really problematic,” she says. “There is this naive idea that there is a lost Eden. Our vision is based on nothing more than wishful thinking and stereotypes.”

Dinner tonight? Woolly mammoths in the 2016 film ‘Ice Age: Collision Course’


There are other ways to look at this question. Thinkers like Brian Tomasik, author of the blog Essays on the reduction of sufferingThey argue that if you’re going to eat animals, “it’s generally better to eat the bigger ones so you have more meat for horrible life and painful death. For example, a beef cow produces more than 100 times more meat per animal than a chicken, so switching from eating only chicken to only beef would reduce the number of farm animals killed by more than 99 percent.”

Considering the question of eating woolly mammoths, Tomasik says, “A woolly mammoth would weigh about 10 times more than a beef cow, so eating mammoths instead of smaller animals would further reduce the number of animal deaths.”

We must also consider the manner of the mammoth’s death. “Whether killing by hunting would be better or worse than a natural death in the wild,” says Tomasik, “depends on how long it would take for the mammoth to die after being shot, and how painful the gunshot wound was to the point of injury.” To die”. “Wild deer, he says, can take 30 to 60 minutes to die after being shot in the lungs or heart. Their brains are considered too small a target, though that might be different for mammoths.

There are many competing considerations here. Although the rejuvenation of Arctic grasslands would probably be good for the climate, it could also mean more wildlife. Tomasik sees this as bad news. “Nearly all wild animals are invertebrates or small vertebrates that produce large numbers of young, most of which die painfully shortly after birth.”

I think it will be a bit like pig.

The strongest opposition to the idea comes from Elisa Allen, PETA’s vice president of programs. Arguing that we should focus on protecting existing species, whose habitats are rapidly disappearing, rather than resurrecting species whose habitats have already been lost, Allen says: “If anything distinguishes humans from the rest of the animal kingdom, it is the selfish desire to eat “. the other members of it when we don’t have to.” Allen says that “the future of the meat industry is in lab-grown or 3D-printed meat.”

Jacy Reese Anthis, co-founder of the Sentience Institute, believes that applying this technology to woolly mammoths is ethically preferable to hunting them. “One of humanity’s most pressing challenges for the 21st century is ending the unethical and unsustainable industry of factory farming,” she says. “Cultured meat is one of the most promising substitutes, so if mammoth meat is what gets people excited, then I’m excited. It would be an extreme waste to breed and raise live mammoths when we could sustainably grow meat tissue in bioreactors.”

This would avoid what Anthis sees as the inherent error of killing, for our own pleasure, a creature that can think and feel. He’s all for the technology, he says, but stresses that it’s important to “maintain boundaries of respect and bodily integrity for sentient beings. One of the most fruitful frontiers has been the right not to be owned and exploited for the benefit of another. This applies to humans, but we recognize it more and more in animals, and it is a fundamental pillar in the responsible stewardship of our fellow human beings.

“It would be a great tragedy if we were to take our technological arm into the Pleistocene and bring these majestic individuals into our time just to use and exploit them for our own benefit.”

For our ancestors, who built buildings with mammoth bones, this topic would not have been half as hairy. But imagine a mammoth-based dish derived not from hunting but from a bioreactor. How could I know? Whitelaw has a guess. “I think it will be a bit like the pig. You’ll have to cook it long and slow to reduce that fat to make it. Or maybe you could make it nice and crispy.”

Be careful with that fur though.

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