Science

Woolly mammoths are making a comeback. Should we eat them?

Woolly mammoths are making a comeback.  Should we eat them?
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AAnd what furry beast, when his time finally comes, leaps into a laboratory to be born?

About 3,900 years ago, on the Siberian mainland, last known Large woolly Since its last breath, humans have known mammoths only through their remains: scattered bones and a small number of frozen carcasses, complete with the tatty remnants of once shaggy fur. These remains have, over the centuries, piqued our curiosity—curiosity that may one day be fulfilled. Colossal Biosciences, a Texas-based start-up, is using genetic engineering in its quest to bring the species back to life.

“The woolly mammoth was the guardian of a healthy planet,” the agency says. Using salvaged mammoth DNA, Colossal will genetically edit Asian elephants, the species’ closest extant cousins. If its plan succeeds, it will produce a woolly mammoth – or as close to a replica as possible – six years from now. This year, the company raised $75 million from investors.

Thus, some 3,906 years after it appeared to be behind us, the woolly mammoth may be reacquainted with humans — a species that has never seen a large mammal that doesn’t like the idea of ​​eating it. their Extinction It wasn’t just our responsibility—the end of the Ice Age greatly reduced the size of their potential habitat—but, some paleontologists argue, prehistory us littered with the carcasses of megafauna on the verge of extinction. Giant sloths, giant armadillos, dire wolves… anyone was presenting planet earth In those days they had to be on their toes.

Given the apparent progress in reconstructing mammoths, we can answer the obvious question: Should we eat them? Focusing on the ecological benefits of large-scale restoration, Kalsal made no mention of this possibility: Heavy animal movement thickens permafrost, or the permanently frozen layer of soil, gravel and sand below the Earth’s surface, preventing it from melting and releasing greenhouse gases. . “If the mammoth steppe ecosystem can be revived,” the company argues, “it could help reverse the rapid warming of the climate and protect the Arctic’s permafrost from further stress – one of the world’s largest carbon reservoirs.”

Still, one wonders if people will be tempted to taste like their ancestors. We have to decide at some point that we want to eat woolly mammoths too – and indeed any other species we choose to resurrect. Would you eat them?

Director of Regenerative Food and Farming Holly Whitelaw says she’ll be up for it. “I eat anything that’s publicly foraged,” Whitelaw said. Roving animals, he says, are healthy for the soil; They distribute seeds and germs as they roam. The healthier Arctic soil, the more grasslands it supports and the more carbon removed from the atmosphere. “It’s like bringing back the wolves,” Whitelaw said. “You get the whole level of the system working better again.”



It would be a great tragedy if we use and exploit these glorious people for our own benefit in our time.

Victoria Herridge, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum and an expert on woolly mammoths, urged caution. Dr. Herridge said in implementing such environmental projects telegraph“You’re running a bio-engineering experiment that, if that’s your goal [met], will create change on a global scale. It becomes a question: Who can interfere with the planet’s climate system?”

to talk freedom, Dr. Herridge expresses additional concern about the origin of this mammoth. “I have a problem with anything to do with surrogate mothers,” she says. Genetically modified mammoth amalgams will implant in Asian elephants, exposing them to significant pain and medical risks.

These are objections to the project itself, rather than the idea of ​​eating mammoth meat at the end of it. Dr. Herridge sees this scenario as unlikely, but creates a hypothetical scenario where he would consider eating mammoth meat. “Fast-forward 100 years. Imagine that Siberia isn’t a swamp, there’s room for woolly elephants to roam, they’re not wading through mosquito-infested swamps. Let’s say they’ve managed to breed 20,000 woolly elephants at this point. They turn to Banff. came out and they’re wreaking havoc, and they’ve had to be culled annually to maintain that population. Do I reject it? No. But there’s a lot of caution.”

Whitelow says that mammoths raised on pasture will have a better ratio of omega:3 to omega:6 fats, preferring a good diet. With this in mind, it’s easy to imagine Paleo enthusiasts catering to consumer demand. Dr. Herridge, however, is again skeptical. “The idea that you can have a diet to get back to these ancient ways is really problematic,” she says. “There is this naive idea that there is a lost Eden. Our view of it is nothing more than wishful thinking and stereotypes.”

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

(Shutterstock)

There are other ways to look at this question. Thinkers like blog writer Brian Tomasik Essay on Alleviation of Sufferingargue that if you’re going to eat animals, “it’s usually better to eat the big ones so that you get more meat for a horrible life and a painful death. For example, a beef cow gives 100 times more meat than a chicken, so eating all chickens instead of all beef Eating would reduce the number of farmed animals by more than 99 percent.”

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

We should also consider the mammoth’s mode of death. “Whether death by hunting would be better or worse than natural death in the wild,” Tomasik says, “depends on how long it takes the mammoth to die after being shot and how painful the gunshot wound was. Death.” Wild deer, he said, can take 30-60 minutes to die after being shot in the lungs or heart. Their brains are considered too small a target, although this may be different for mammoths.

There are many competing considerations here. Although the regeneration of Arctic grasslands would likely be good for the climate, it could also include more wildlife. Tomasic sees this as bad news. “Almost all wild animals are invertebrates or small vertebrates that give birth to large numbers of offspring, most of which die painfully soon after birth.”



I think it would be like pork

Even stronger opposition to the idea came from PETA’s vice president, Elisa Allen For species whose habitats have already been lost, our focus should be on protecting existing species whose habitats are rapidly disappearing, rather than resurgent species, says Allen: “If anything separates humans from the rest of the animal world, it is the selfish desire to eat. While its other members don’t have to.” Allen says that “the future of the meat industry lies in lab-grown or 3D-printed meat”.

Jesse Rees Anthis, co-founder of the Sentience Institute, sees applying this technology to woolly mammoths as morally preferable to hunting them. “One of humanity’s most pressing challenges for the 21st century is ending the unethical, unsustainable industry of factory farming,” he says. “Culturized meat is one of the most promising options, so if mammoth meat is what gets people excited about it, then I’m excited about it. Breeding and farming live mammoths would be extremely wasteful when we can sustainably grow meat tissue in bioreactors.”

It will avoid what it sees as the inherent mistake of killing an animal that can think and feel, for our own pleasure. He’s all for technology, he says, but stresses that it’s important to “maintain boundaries of dignity and physical integrity for sentient beings. One of the most fruitful boundaries is the right to own and not exploit for the benefit of others. This applies to humans but increasingly we Being recognized for animals is an important pillar of responsible stewardship of our fellow creatures.

“It would be a great tragedy if we were to throw our technological arms back into the Pleistocene and take these majestic people into our time to use and exploit for our own benefit.”

For our ancestors, who made buildings out of mammoth bones, this problem wouldn’t have been half as hairy. But let’s imagine a mammoth-based diet derived not from hunting but from a bioreactor. How might it taste? Whitelaw has a guess. “I think it will be a bit like pork. To make it you need to cook it long and slow to reduce the fat. Or maybe you can make it nice and crisp.”

Mind out for that fur, though.

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