ANDAnd what hairy beast, whose hour has finally come, slithers toward a lab to be born?
About 3,900 years ago on mainland Siberia, the last known woolly mammoth has breathed his last. Since then, humans have only known mammoths by their remains: scattered bones and a small number of frozen carcasses, complete with the dingy remains of once shaggy fur. These remains have piqued our curiosity for centuries – curiosity that might one day be satisfied. Colossal Biosciences, a Texas-based start-up, is using genetic engineering to bring the species back to life.
“The woolly mammoth was the guardian of a healthier planet,” says the company. Using salvaged mammoth DNA, Colossal will genetically alter Asian elephants, the species’ closest extant cousin. If its plans succeed, it will produce a woolly mammoth – or as close a replica as possible – in six years. That year, the company raised $75 million from investors.
So about 3,906 years after it thought it saw our backs, the mammoth could meet humans again — a species that has never seen a large mammal it didn’t like. Her die out was not solely our responsibility – the end of the Ice Age massively reduced the size of their potential habitat – but, as some paleontologists argue, prehistory is littered with the bodies of the megafauna we ate to extinction. Giant sloths, giant armadillos, dire wolves… whoever was presenting planet Earth should have stayed on the ball back then.
Given the apparent advances in mammoth reconstitution, we might as well be answering the obvious question: should we eat them? Colossal didn’t mention that prospect, instead focusing on the environmental benefits of mammoth remediation: The animal’s heavy gait thickens the permafrost, or the permanently frozen layer of earth, gravel, and sand beneath the Earth’s surface, preventing it from melting and releasing greenhouse gases. “If the mammoth steppe ecosystem could be revived,” the company argues, “it could help reverse rapid climate warming and, most importantly, protect Arctic permafrost — one of the world’s largest carbon reservoirs.”
Still, one wonders if people will be tempted to try it like their ancestors did. At some point we will have to decide whether we want to eat woolly mammoths – and indeed any other species that we want to revive. would you eat them
Holly Whitelaw, director of Regenerative Food and Farming, says she’s ready for it. “I would eat anything that was holistically pastured,” says Whitelaw. Stray animals, she says, are good for the soil; They disperse seeds and microbes as they migrate. The healthier the Arctic soil, the more grassland it supports and the more carbon is removed from the atmosphere. “It’s like bringing the wolves back,” says Whitelaw. “You’re bringing the whole layer of the system back up and running.”
Victoria Herridge, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum and an expert on woolly mammoths, urges caution. In conducting these types of environmental projects, Dr. Herridge The Telegraph“You’re conducting a biotechnology experiment, if that’s your goal [met], will bring about changes on a global scale. The question arises: Who is allowed to manipulate the planet’s climate system?
Speak with The Independent, said Dr. Herridge added concerns about the origin of these mammoths. “I have a problem with anything to do with surrogacy,” she says. The genetically engineered mammoth amalgams are hatched in Asian elephants, putting them at significant risk of pain and medical risks.
These are objections to the project itself, not the idea of ending up eating mammoth meat. dr Herridge thinks this scenario is unlikely, but has a hypothetical scenario in which she would consider eating mammoth meat. “Fast forward 100 years. Imagine, Siberia is not a god, there is a place where woolly elephants can roam, they are not wading through a mosquito-infested swamp. Let’s say they managed to breed 20,000 woolly elephants by this point. They have migrated to Banff and are causing havoc and to maintain this population they have had to conduct an annual cull. Would I refuse? But. But there are so many caveats.”
Whitelaw says that pasture-reared mammoth has a good ratio of omega:3 to omega:6 fats, making it a good diet choice. With that in mind, it’s easy to imagine Paleo enthusiasts filling consumer demand. dr However, 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’s this naïve idea that there is a lost Eden. Our vision of it is based on nothing but wishful thinking and clichés.”
There are other ways of looking at this question. Thinkers like Brian Tomasik, author of the blog Essays on reducing suffering, argue that if you eat animals, “it’s generally better to eat bigger ones, so you’ll get more meat for a horrible life and a painful death.” For example, a beef cow provides over 100 times as much meat per animal as a chicken, so switching from all-chicken to all-beef would reduce the number of farm animals killed by more than 99 percent.”
On the issue of eating woolly mammoths, Tomasik says, “A woolly mammoth would weigh about 10 times as much as a meat cow, so eating mammoths instead of smaller animals would further reduce animal deaths.”
We should also consider the mammoth’s manner of death. “Whether dying from hunting would be better or worse than dying naturally 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 by then.” Death.” Wild deer, he says, can take 30 to 60 minutes to die after being shot in the lungs or heart. Their brains are considered an undertarget, though mammoths may not.
There are many competing considerations here. While rejuvenation of the Arctic grasslands would likely be good for the climate, it could also bring increased wildlife numbers. Tomasik sees this as bad news. “Almost all wild animals are invertebrates or small vertebrates that produce large numbers of offspring, most of which die agonizingly shortly after birth.”
Stronger opposition to the idea comes from Elisa Allen, PETA’s vice president of programs. Allen argues that we should focus on protecting existing species whose habitats are rapidly disappearing, rather than reviving species whose habitats are already lost, saying, “If anything separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom, it’s selfishness The other members demand to eat it when we don’t have to.” Allen says that “the future of the meat industry lies in lab-grown or 3D-printed meat.”
Jacy Reese Anthis, co-founder of the Sentience Institute, sees applying this technology to woolly mammoths as ethically preferable to hunting them. “One of humanity’s most pressing challenges in the 21st century is to end the unethical, unsustainable factory farming industry,” he says. “Cultivated meat is one of the most promising substitutes. So if mammoth meat gets people excited about it, then I’m excited. It would be extremely wasteful to breed and breed live mammoths when we could sustainably grow meat tissues in bioreactors.”
This would avoid what Anthis sees as the inherent wrongness of killing for our own amusement a creature that can think and feel. He’s all for technology, he says, but stresses that it’s important to “uphold the boundaries of respect and physical integrity towards sentient beings.” One of the most fertile frontiers was the right not to be owned and exploited for the benefit of others. This is true for humans, but increasingly we recognize it for animals as well, and it is a critical pillar of responsible interaction with our fellow creatures.
“It would be a great tragedy if we stretched our technological arm back into the Pleistocene and hoisted these majestic individuals into our time, only to use and exploit them for our own benefit.”
For our ancestors, who built buildings from mammoth bones, this question would not have been half so sensitive. But let’s imagine a mammoth-based dish that doesn’t come from hunting, but from a bioreactor. How could it taste? Whitelaw has a guess. “I think it’s going to be a little bit like pork. You have to cook it long and slow to reduce the fat to make it. Or maybe you could make it nice and crispy.”
Watch out for that fur though.