Would we eat E.T.?

Imagine that one of these years, we run into life on another planet. Not bacteria or some other tiny life-form, but say a kind of medium-sized mammal. Would we eat these creatures?

I’m not talking about you or me as individuals, or Elon Musk when he first sets foot on the planet in question, but about society in general. Would the cultural consensus be that these are creatures that we’re allowed to hunt or raise for food?

Much will depend on their exact nature and their qualitiesHow intelligent are they? To what extent are they similar to ourselves and to the animals we’re already eating? Let’s assume that in terms of intelligence, these extra-terrestrials are somewhat similar to pigs. In terms of physical aspects, they look completely alien (they may not have a head, or may have a weird number of limbs, a strange color and skin, or whatever), but they definitely look edible (meaty, let’s say). We’re also assuming we can’t communicate with them any more than we can with animals on this planet.

E.T. on the grill (www.alienbbq.org)
E.T. on the grill (www.alienbbq.org)

You may think that humankind is just about depraved enough to start factory farming these creatures. My guess, however, is that when we find this sort of life form on another planet, it would be much easier to grant these creatures the right not to be eaten than to grant it to pigs (or cows or chickens). Part of the reason could lie in some kind of curiosity and respect we’d have for them for being from another planet. But the more important reason is that we are not using these beings yet. Prohibiting ourselves from eating them wouldn’t really affect many people. Compare that to the attempt to give rights to farmed animals, of which we are eating over sixty billion specimens a year (not counting sea creatures). Both economically and individually, we are incredibly dependent on using animals right now.

One way to put this situation is: where we stand depends on where we sit. If we have a stake in killing and eating animals, changing our mind about them will be so much more difficult (we’re steakholders), than in the case of a newly discovered alien life form that is in many respects pretty similar to the animals we’re already eating.

This dependency on using animals needs to be tackled if we want to make any progress with changing people’s minds. That’s why developing alternatives, including clean meat, is so enormously important. When we will have decreased our use of animals, hearts and minds will be a lot more open to change. This applies to both the individual level and the societal level.

E.T., I think, is relatively safe. Now, let’s get back to Earth and take all the other animals out of the food chain.

PS Check out www.alienbbq.org, or read this interview with Dr Jared Piazza, in which he talks about a research study involving a thought experiment with an imaginary creature.


8 thoughts on “Would we eat E.T.?

  1. This is a common theme here…..but its not consistent with the data. While “meat alternatives” have increased in availability and desirability over the last 2 decades meat consumption just keeps increasing.

    Furthermore there has been alternatives to meat for thousands of years and yet here we are. I suppose the idea is that if the alternatives more closely resemble the “real thing” they will be utilized at a higher degree…….but again not what is happening.

  2. Tobias,

    Just a reminder….censoring ideas and data doesn’t make them go away = ) One thing I liked about you is that you allowed fairly open discussions…..but not anymore. Now you censor just like all the other vegan anti-intellectuals. Good job.

    1. it’s for my own sustainability toad. i get endlessly frustrated by your eternal and predictable comments, so yes, now and then, i’ll leave some out. i’ve had more than enough patience.
      if you care about this, just try being a little bit more constructive.

  3. I doubt we would eat them for any number of reasons. Most of them fear based.

    This not identical thought experiment, but would we have eaten Neanderthals is they survived? Science seems to be leaning towards the idea that we were distinct species, so why not eat them?

    In this age of DNA editing (Crispr), we will eventually start borrowing DNA from flora and fauna to and vice versa. (far off) Assuming these transfers are viable (big if) I can’t help this will lead to creating our own Aliens right here on earth.

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