I was watching QI last week – the BBC comedy quiz show full of quirky facts, in which contestants are awarded points if their answers are “Quite Interesting”. The host, the wonderful Stephen Fry, asks the team, “How can a family legally reduce its ecological footprint the most?”
The contestants suggest that the family stop driving monstrously huge, gas guzzling 4x4s. With a raise of an eyebrow, Fry reveals that, actually, the family would do better to get rid of their pet dog…
(To which Bill Bailey quips, “Oh yeah, legally reduce the footprint, but not ethically.”)
… One dog – one lovely, drooling, fluffy dog – is the equivalent to two Toyota Landcruisers, purely because of the meat it lives on.
It takes 43m2 of land to produce one kilo of chicken (does anyone know what it is for beef?!) and only 13m2 for cereal – food for thought when we’re using 1.4 times more resources than the planet can restore.
Two people on a serious mission to solve this are Professor Patrick Brown – an eccentric molecular biologist – and Dr. Mark Post – a Dutch stem-cell scientist. Their vision is to reduce the human footprint by 50%. Indeed, their mission statement – “We will change how the Earth looks from space” – is bigger, bolder and punchier than anything I’ve seen before. And they’re going to do this by changing the way we think about meat.
Importantly (as I like meat, and I know that there are many more who love it), they don’t want to persuade or coerce us to give it up, or even to get us eating less of it: “I have zero interest in making a new food just for vegans. I am making a food for people who are comfortable eating meat and who want to continue eating meat”, says Prof Brown. The theory is that a single specimen could provide the seed material for hundreds of tonnes of meat – meaning that only a handful of farm animals alive today would be needed to supply meat to the entire human race.
Fake meat isn’t new – what is new, however, is the offering of a) something tasty (because it’s all been quite grim to date) and b) something affordable. They’re not quite there yet, but when the time comes to prove the concept they plan to invite Heston Blumenthal to cook their hamburger patty for a famous vegetarian to eat; a dramatic and brilliant PR stunt to publicly challenge – and disrupt – the meat industry.
“In a few decades our descendants will be puzzled – indeed horrified – that we ever did it any other way,” says Prof Brown. These two are true game changers, setting out to change the way we live our lives altogether. And if the goal seems slightly bonkers, it’s because it is. But, to quote Einstein: “For an idea that does not first seem insane, there is no hope.”
Click here to read the full article in The Guardian.