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

OneWhat furry beast, whose moment has finally come, slouching toward a laboratory to be born?

About 3,900 years ago, in Siberia, the last known woolly mammoth took its last breath. Since then, humans have only known mammoths through their remains: scattered bones and a handful of frozen carcasses, and the tattered remains of their once-shaggy fur. For centuries, these relics have fueled our curiosity—curiosity that may one day be satisfied. Texas-based startup Colossal Biosciences is using genetic engineering to bring the species back to life.

“Woolly mammoths are the guardians of a healthier planet,” the company said. Colossal will use the recovered mammoth DNA to gene-edit the Asian elephant, the species’ closest living cousin. If its plans are successful, it could produce a woolly mammoth — or as close a replica as possible — in six years’ time. This year, the company raised $75 million from investors.

So, some 3,906 years after it thought it saw our backs, the mammoth may be reacquainting itself with humans—a species that has never seen a large mammal that it doesn’t like to eat. Their extinction wasn’t just our responsibility – the end of the Ice Age drastically reduced the size of their potential habitat – but, as some paleontologists say, prehistoric times were littered with the carcasses of extinct megafauna we ate .Giant sloths, giant armadillos, terrifying wolves… whoever it is planet earth In those days, they had to be vigilant.

Given the apparent progress in the field of restructuring mammoths, we might as well answer the obvious question: Should we eat them? Colossal makes no mention of this prospect, instead focusing on restoring the mammoth’s environmental benefits: The animal’s heavy gait thickens the permafrost, or the permafrost layer of soil, gravel and sand beneath the Earth’s surface, preventing its Melting and releasing greenhouse gases. “If the mammoth prairie ecosystem can recover,” the company believes, “it could help reverse the climate’s rapid warming and, more urgently, protect the Arctic’s permafrost—the world’s largest source of carbon One of the repositories.”

Still, one wonders if people will try it as their ancestors did. We’re going to have to decide at some point whether we want to eat mammoths too – really any other species we choose to resurrect. will you eat them?

Holly Whitelaw, director of regenerative food and agriculture, said she would be ready for it. “I’ll eat anything that’s completely pastured,” Whitelaw said. Roaming animals are good for the soil, she said. They distribute seeds and microbes as they wander. The healthier the Arctic soil, the more grassland it supports and the more carbon it removes from the atmosphere. “It’s like bringing the wolf back,” Whitelaw said. “You can make the whole system layer work better again.”

It would be a great tragedy if we incorporated these majestic men into our time, only to use and exploit them for our own benefit

Paleontologist and mammoth expert Victoria Herridge of the Natural History Museum called for caution.While working on this kind of environmental project, Dr Herridge told The Telegraph“You’re doing a bioengineering experiment, if your goal is to [met], will create change on a global scale. This becomes the question: Who is going to tamper with Earth’s climate system? “

and independent, Dr Herridge expressed additional concerns about the origin of these mammoths. “I have questions about anything related to surrogate motherhood,” she said. Genetically modified mammoth amalgam will be bred in Asian elephants, posing huge pain and medical risks to them.

These are objections to the project itself, not the idea of ​​eating mammoth at the end of the project. Dr Herridge thinks this is unlikely, but presents a hypothetical scenario where she would consider eating mammoth. “Fast forward 100 years. Imagine that Siberia is not a swamp, there are places where mammoths can roam, they don’t wade through mosquito-infested swamps. Let’s say they’ve successfully bred 20,000 mammoths currently. Man, they are wreaking havoc and to maintain this population they have to do culls every year. Would I say no? No. But there are a lot of caveats.

Pasture-raised mammoths have a high ratio of omega:3 to omega:6 fats, making them a good dietary choice, Whitelaw said. With that in mind, it’s easy to imagine paleo enthusiasts delivering 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 said. “There was a naive idea of ​​a lost Eden. Our vision for it was just based on wishful thinking and stereotypes.”

Dinner tonight? Mammoths from the 2016 film “Ice Age: A Collision Lesson”


There are other ways to look at this problem.Thinkers such as blogger Brian Tomasik essay on pain reliefarguing that if you’re going to eat an animal, “it’s usually better to eat the bigger one, so you’ll get more meat in a horrific life and death and a painful death. For example, a beef cow yields a meat yield of one animal per animal. 100 times more than chicken, so switching from whole chicken to whole beef will reduce the number of farmed animal deaths by more than 99%.”

Considering the issue of eating mammoths, Tomasik said: “Mammoths weighed about 10 times as much as beef cattle, so eating mammoths rather than smaller animals would reduce the number of animal deaths even more.”

We should also consider how the mammoths died. “Whether hunting is better or worse than natural death in the wild depends on how long it takes for the mammoth to be shot and how painful the gunshot wound is,” Tomasik said. Wild deer in the lungs or heart, he said. It can take 30 to 60 minutes to die after being shot. Their brain was considered too small a target, although it may have been different for mammoths.

There are many competing considerations here. While the revival of the Arctic grasslands may benefit the climate, more wildlife may also be needed. Tomasik thinks this is bad news. “Almost all wild animals are invertebrates or small vertebrates that produce large numbers of offspring, most of which die painfully shortly after birth.”

I feel a bit like pork

Elisa Allen, PETA’s vice president of programs, is more vehemently against the idea. Allen believes we should focus on protecting existing species whose habitat is rapidly disappearing, rather than resurrecting species whose habitat has disappeared: its other members when we don’t need it, Allen said. “The future of the meat industry lies in lab-grown or 3D-printed meat,” Allen said.

Sentience Institute co-founder Jacy Reese Anthis believes that applying the technology to mammoths is morally preferable to hunting them. “One of the most pressing challenges facing humanity in the 21st century is to end unethical, unsustainable factory farming,” he said. “Cultured meat is one of the most promising alternatives, so if mammoth meat is what gets people excited about it, then I’m excited about it. When we can grow meat tissue sustainably in bioreactors , breeding and raising live mammoths would be extremely wasteful.”

This will avoid the inherent error of Anthis in thinking that killing a creature that can think and feel for our own pleasure. He said he fully supports technology, but stressed that “it is important to maintain boundaries with respect for all sentient beings and physical integrity. One of the most productive boundaries is the right to not own and use for the benefit of others. This applies to humans, But we are increasingly recognizing that it applies to animals, and that it is a key pillar in the responsible management of our fellow citizens.

“It would be a huge tragedy if we stretched our technological arms back to the Pleistocene and brought these great men into our time, only to use and exploit them for our own benefit.”

For our ancestors who built buildings out of mammoth bones, this problem would have been less troublesome. But let’s imagine mammoth dishes not from hunting but from bioreactors. how is the taste? Whitelaw has a guess. “I think it’s a bit like pork. You have to cook it long and slow to get the fat down. Or you can make it nice and crispy.”

However, watch out for that fur.

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