Until We Meat Again
By R. D. Flavin
By stock and stone,
until we meat again,
with burgers, chops, or ribs.
I remember the horseradish,
though I've forgotten how to ride...
Kavoshgar 3 lifting off in Iran, "Helmz 1," a rat, a turtle, a worm, were aboard the experimental sub-orbital flight.
Earlier this month Iran became the sixth nation to experiment with non-human life by launching them toward space or, by definition, pretty damned high into the mesosphere (approx. 53 miles). Throughout history and twistory we’ve debated death and diet, execution and experimentation, and fact and fiction. I’m not seeing the conclusions of these arguments any time soon. Some vegetarians, like Paul McCartney and his late wife, Linda, hold that it’s not nice to eat anything with a face, but this approach was successfully countered by the comedian, Steven Wright, who once claimed, “I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals, I’m a vegetarian because I [really] hate plants.” Some wave “goodbye,” but I say, “Until we meat again...”The day after
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the U.S. began using captured Nazi V-2 ballistic missiles for defensive and scientific experiments. A December 17, 1946 launch carried fungus spores, but as the spore containers were never recovered and tested, this initial experiment with non-human life forms is generally overlooked. The first successful test with life being rocketed toward space (approx. 60 miles “up”) occurred on February 20, 1947 with the recovery of several vials of fruit flies (along with rye and cotton seeds) which were later analyzed by Harvard University scientists and determined to have suffered no mutations from being subjected to …cosmic rays (Krause 1947, p. 445).
"COSMIC RAYS!!" origin panels from pp. 10 & 13 of The Fantastic Four #1 (November, 1961).
Though some cosmic rays (particles, actually) originate from Sol, our sun, we still aren’t sure where the majority of cosmic rays come from, with recent theories suggesting an extremely large black hole at the center of our galaxy which produces a lot of weird energy (Raymond 2009). Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, primarily with high-altitude weather balloons, experiments demonstrated an increase in cosmic rays the further “up” into the atmosphere one measured. With the introduction of missiles and rockets, science continued to investigate cosmic rays, especially their effect upon life. With a goal of human space travel and exploration, non-human test subjects were used to determine whether or not that goal was possible. The Marvel Comics superhero team, The Fantastic Four, acquired powers they then used to fight evil and do good deeds after they encountered cosmic rays, however that’s fiction and the fact is that most life doesn’t fare well when exposed to significant amounts of cosmic rays.
The tradition of
non-humans before humans to accomplish a task or to gain knowledge
antiquity in matters of sacrifice, warfare, (proto-) science, and other
areas. The investigation of outer space, “the final
frontier,” as the voice-over for Star
Trek goes, with its many inherent dangers
like cosmic rays, benefitted immensely from the use of non-humans
to-date, more non-humans have died in the investigation than
The American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals, founded in New York City on April 10, 1866,
followed by the
American Anti-Vivisection Society at Philadelphia in 1883, were vocal
with animal rights, humane (read: somewhat considerate) treatment, and
unnecessary medical experimentation, but their voices and actions were
concerning our early space flight experiments, as our national
was still struggling with the horrors of the Second World War. It
was the dawn of the Nuclear Age, a
manifest future of new challenges and, with the communist nations of
Albert I before launch, a first day of issue postcard illustration of Gordo, and a very happy Ham after his space flight.
The first monkey
used in a
space flight experiment was a 9 lb Macca
mullatta rhesus monkey named
Albert (later, designated Albert I). On June
11, 1948, injected with lots of sodium pentobarbital and a strong
was placed in a V-2 Blossom III rocket, a launch countdown continued
lack of any instrument readings indicating the monkey was still alive,
rocket launched, suffered a premature burn-out, and only achieved an
of 37 miles. As the nose-cone containing
the likely deceased monkey fell back to Earth, the parachute
malfunctioned, it crashed, and …there
wasn’t much left to study (Burgess & Dubbs 2007, pp. 38-51).
Later efforts would also suffer from a number
of problems, though Albert VI survived a spectacular flight, re-entry,
landing, …only to die from heat prostration a couple of hours later
recovery took too long.
sadly ended in tragedy, was that of Gordo (or “Old Reliable”), a 1 lb Saimiri
sciureus squirrel monkey who journeyed 300+ miles from Earth on
Friday the 13th in
December of 1958. Carried by a Jupiter
21 IRBM, Gordo was the first to reach outer space, location beacons
didn’t work, it’s believed a floatation device on the capsule failed
after splashdown, the
recovery ship gave up looking for him after six hours, and
critics had their way remarking on the Navy tradition of not launching
ships on Friday the 13th. By all accounts
and evidence, Gordo handled the flight, weightlessness, and re-entry
fine. The mission was a great success for science,
not so much for Gordo, though his story received attention from Life Magazine
(Barr 1958), the New York Times
(Mooney 1958), and other media.
Lest it be
thought that only
tragedy befell our simian space travelers, a mention must be made of
successful Mercury-Redstone 2 sub-orbital flight on January 31, 1961 by
acronym formed from Holloman Aero-Medical [Laboratory]), a Pan troglodytes
troglodytes chimpanzee. Trained with B. F.
Skinner-esque operant conditioning (Emurian & Brady 2007, pp.
chimp went on a great 16 minute and 39 second ride which reached an
157 miles, all the while performing his assigned tasks of turning knobs
flipping switches, essentially doing what Alan B. Shepard. Jr. would do
Mercury-Redstone 3 on May 5, 1961, when he became the first American to
complete a sub-orbital flight into space (the Soviets had launched
weeks earlier). For his service, Ham was
retired to the Washington Zoo until 1980, when he was transferred to
Laika getting ready for 1957's Sputnik 2 orbital flight, Astro from 1962's The Jetsons, and Disney's 2009 Space Buddies.
Credit must be
fairly and properly
extended and much is due the Soviet space program and its use of
canines. Beyond musing over a single or a
multi-regional domestication of the modern dog from holarctic
gray wolves (passim Flavin 2008),
the Russians have a long history with Canis
lupus. The work of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1904 Nobel
Prize in Physiology or Medicine) and his demonstration of a
reflex” through the study of the salivation of dogs (hence, the
dog” as meaning a reflexive response), was a source of extreme pride
Soviet people and, surprisingly, the government as well. Perhaps
it was such history which compelled
the Soviets to begin in 1951 to use dogs in their space flight
When the Soviets
listened to the first radio-wave “beep” transmitted from their Sputnik
on October 4, 1957, they knew they had achieved something great besides
the Americans in the race to place an artificial satellite in orbit
Earth. To commemorate the 40th anniversary
of the October Revolution on November 7, 1957 (yeah, eventually the
switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian), a second Sputnick
ordered, but this time a biological experiment was included to gauge
of orbit on a life form. Naturally, the
Soviets used a dog, as they had always intended to do since 1951, just
were rushed because of the potential publicity of the new “space race.”
To assist their mission, as the story
they purposefully chose a stray from the streets of
On November 3,
four days ahead of schedule and less than a month since the launch of
Sputnik, Sputnik II took off with Laika (“Barker” in Russian)
Excitement mixed with envy and was peppered
with protests here and abroad (Kihiss 1957; Love 1957). With the
term “Muttnik,” even American science
writers turned mean (Anonymous 1957). It’s
reported she was stressed before her flight (she was strapped in three
to launch), way stressed during lift-off and acceleration, but relaxed
when she ate some food. She died after
several hours in space — I, for personal reasons, am glad she seemed to
stability in a last meal, especially at that height. As per Cold
War crap and propaganda, Laika’s “true”
story only emerged after the fall of the
We do what we can and also, by necessity, what we can get away with. Most times we help the old lady across the street, but sometimes …we knock her down and steal her purse. We ain’t perfect and it is what it is. Politics? Religion? Please, it’s accepted that we reward entertainers. Science? It’s our last and only retreat, yet even with ‘science’ we find fault, what are we to do? ‘Better’ is an appropriate response. I’ve previously compared cheeseburgers, the death penalty, and abortion, because I feel they are all extreme and essential acts that we currently do to …maintain ourselves. The glass may be half empty or half full, go ahead and argue, though life and death is what it is. I felt sorry for “Baby Fay” and her transplant problem, she was given a baboon’s heart and cyclosporin (an anti-organ rejection drug with a significant side-effect of way wild hair growth), and had she lived she would have been …hairy, yet, I would do the same. It is what it is and if sacrifice can advance, …it is what it is. I’d lay down my life to rescue a fellow animal in need, I’d like to believe a fellow animal might lay down their life for me if needed, but …hypotheticals are the stuff of drunks and FOX NEWS. Science doesn’t proclaim “eat or be eaten,” but rather it suggests manners. We became ‘human’ because we cared for a mate, children, the old and sick . Okay, the opposable thumb and fire-making ability were important. However, sigh, it is what it is and we’ll do better, and maybe before we stop disagreeing about politics and religion, we’ll agree about …meat.
I’ve heard an
about someone approaching a life form and categorizing it as “I can
[have sex with] it or eat it.” Jokes
about Mediterranean guys aside, life is wonderful, short, and it is
what is. Sex with a goat is nasty, roasted goat is tasty, and I
believe that one
be able to stop having sex with and eating goats. However, that
day is not today. It could and should be tomorrow, and good
folk are working hard to make life, truth, justice, and 'science'
better. Yeah, we’re horny and hungry. But,
are we honest and are we
practicing science? Yes.
We are our
diets. Science tells us that humans are omnivores, that is, we'll
eat anything and everything. Our dentition, the placement of our
eyes, the size of our appendix, all suggest we fit between carnivores
(meat-eaters) and herbivores (plant-eaters). While we advance
with the self-delusion of free will and personal choice, we are limited
by biology. Our need to eat is intractable. What we eat (or
who) is open to debate.
attended a lecture by the late Prof. Richard Evans Schultes, director
of the Harvard Botanical Museum. A casually presented fact, that
if science could figure out a way to separate protein from common yard
leaves, America would have an endless and renewable food supply, has
stayed with me. That was over twenty years ago and every time I
grab a rake I wonder why science hasn't done more. I
Green is people! Fictions aside, science 'fact' is closing
an alternative to killing animals for their meat – we’re going to grow
without all the bones, organs, face, suffering, and death
Actually, we already have, it’s just not
tasty (or legal) yet.
Being new or different has long been regarded as acceptable
(unless one follows Ecc 1:9 and the “nothing new under the sun”
approach). Spanking is now a crime in many American
states, regardless of who, what, where, and why. [Insert
expletive here.] How?
The fall-out of a free society.
When N.O.W. (National Organization for Women) attempted to amend their
by-laws to allow “consensual spanking” between adults, prudishness
I believe, the broads are still arguing about it. However,
whichever way the wind blows, as
long as it’s still blowing, there’s hope through discussion. A
couple of years ago, in a most surprising
and admirable move, P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of
offered a million dollar prize to anyone who could produce in vitro chicken
meat that’s tasty by 2016. Well, spank
me! I’m impressed! [Insert chicks are into fake chicken
here.] In all honesty, I’m very proud
that I live in a time and in a society that such necessary innovation
encouraged. Now, about the money…
The $10 million Ansari X Prize awarded in 2004 for a
privately built spacecraft was a triumph of capitalism, the current $30
Google Lunar X Prize offered for landing a robot on the Moon, having it
500 meters and successfully broadcast images back to Earth seems
and achievable, and with P.E.T.A.’s million dollar prize being dangled
to be moving into an era of competition-based science.
I guess after 2400 years of Plato’s “Necessity,
who is the mother of invention,” we’re transitioning into “Cash, it’s
makes scientists work better.”
What began a dozen years ago as a theoretical model to feed
astronauts on long space voyages (Benjaminson et al., 1998) was later
actualized, at least partially (Benjaminson et al., 2010). In 2001, or so, Dr. Morris Benjaminson of the
Touro College School of Health Sciences (New York), grew some goldfish
cells, fried the chunks up in olive oil, added garlic, pepper, and a
lemon juice, and those present attested that it looked and smelled like
but no one tasted it, as the “growing” process is still awaiting US
Drug Administration approval and to do so, would be illegal. From published reports, Dr. Benjaminson is
attempted to perfect a growth medium (perhaps made from mushrooms), and
plans to attempt to grow chicken and beef. Well,
good luck, Dr. Benjaminson, if NASA ever
really commits to going to Mars, your work will assuredly be needed,
all else fails, I’ve a hunch that McDonald's® might be interested
A few months back, the Dutch cultured some porcine myoblasts
and grew pork in a dish. For the
non-kosher and halal crowd, and the sausage manufacturing company
supporting the endeavor, this is a step toward bacon without guilt.
However, and again, it is what it is, and ‘meat'
is more than just murdered animal muscle tissue. Example?
It would be nice to live one’s life by a code such as “Friends
don’t eat friends,” but there are times when one gets really really
hungry. No taboo without its relaxation,
goes. Hey, I’m Catholic and drinking
blood (albeit fake and imaginary trans-something or other) is
okay. I respectfully refuse council and
admit that I enjoy eating meat. In 1996,
or thereabouts, I was in southwestern
I’m unsure if
Anonymous. 1957. "Dog Aboard Sputnik II." The Science News-Letter. 72, 19: 292.
Barr, Norman. 1958. "A Capsulated Monkey Blazes Trail for Mankind." Life. December, 1958; p. 22.
Benjaminson, Morris Aaron et al. 1998. "Bioconversion systems for food and water on long term space missions." Morris Aaron
Benjaminson, Stanley Lehrer and Danielle A. Macklin. Acta Astronautica. 43, 3-6: 329-348.
Benjaminson, M. A. et al. 2010. "In Vitro Edible Muscle Protein Production System (MPPS): Stage 1, Fish." Acta Astronautica. In Press
(as of 2-28-10).
Burgess, Colin and Chris Dubbs. 2007. Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle. Berlin; New York: Springer.
Emurian, Henry H. and Joseph V. Brady. 2007. "Behavioral Health Management of Space Dwelling Groups: Safe Passage Beyond Earth
Orbit." The Behavior Analyst Today. 8, 2: 113-135. Available online at: http://nasa1.ifsm.umbc.edu/cv/Emurian_Brady_2007.pdf.
Flavin, R. D. 2008. "Small Dog Nation." Flavin's Corner. May 7, 2008. Available online at: http://www.flavinscorner.com/sdnation.htm.
Kihiss, Peter. 1957. "Police Fight Pickets At Soviet Fete Here; POLICE HERE FIGHT PICKETS AT PARTY." New York Times. November
8, 1957; p. 1.
Krause, Ernst H. 1947. “High Altitude Research with V-2 Rockets.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 91, 5: 439-446.
Love, Kennett. 1957. "BRITONS PROTEST DOG IN SATELLITE; Soviet Embassy in Lonon Declares Many Russians Volunteered for Flight,
Dog Called Limonchick, Dogs on Picket Line, Dulles to Get Protest." New York Times. November 5, 1957; p. 12.
Mooney, Richard E. 1958. "Monkey in Army's Missile Fired 300 Miles in Space." New York Times. December 14, 1958; p. c1. NASA's
"Animals in Space" web-page at http://history.nasa.gov/animals.html gives a figure of 600 miles.
Raymond, John C. 2009. "Cosmic-Ray Acceleration in Supernova Remnants." Science. 5941: 683-684.