By Jen Bravo, Guest Contributor
Many of us just couldn’t wait for 2016 to be over, and now 2017 is off to a rocky start as well. What better way to cheer ourselves up than to take a peek at some technology trends that are revolutionizing the world for animals?
Trend #1: The Future of Protein
Imagine a world in which factory farming no longer exists, and we can feed the world high-quality protein with minimal inputs of energy, water, fertilizer, and no antibiotics! A world in which the suffering and environmental destruction inherent in factory farming is a thing of the past. This world is not as far off as you might think, thanks to advancements in cellular agriculture.
Over the past few years, innovators have been leveraging tissue engineering, synthetic biology, bioengineering, and materials science to grow or replicate factory farmed products—such as meat and dairy—in a laboratory setting. You may have heard of the Impossible Burger, Hungry Planet’s Range-Free™ burger, and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger—which is now supported by an investment from Tyson Foods—and these are just the beginning!
New Harvest is accelerating the development of “milk without cows, eggs without hens, and beef without cows,” and the Good Food Institute is supporting early-stage and established companies to develop and market “clean meat” and plant-based proteins.
There are a number of start-ups, ranging from Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based company growing meat from animal cells, to SuperMeat, which just completed a successful Indiegogo campaign in September 2016 and is focusing on a cultured chicken product.
Perfect Day Foods—which produces cow’s milk using yeast—are pushing the envelope at the forefront of the animal-free food revolution.
The good news is that as these technologies improve and demand increases, costs will come down, making these animal-free choices the frugal and environmentally-sustainable choice as well.
Trend #2: Virtual Entertainment & Immersive Experiences
Technology won’t just change how we eat—it will change how we relate to animals, learn about them, and are entertained by them. You may remember 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes? It was lauded by animal advocates for being the first live-action film to not only tell the story from the point of view of a sentient, non-human animal, but to use only computer-generated images to do so. Well, 2011 seems like forever ago, considering what we can now do using virtual reality (VR).
Imagine swimming with dolphins, experiencing the Great Migration across the plains of the Serengeti, or spending time with a family of mountain gorillas, all without exploiting living animals. Imagine classes of students experiencing coral reefs or rain forests, full of vibrant plants and animals, rather than a zoo or aquarium with captive animals.
VR will revolutionize how we educate children about the natural world, enabling them to immerse themselves in ecosystems without damaging them. And VR will enable those who would never otherwise be able to travel the globe to experience these animals in an immersive way.
VR will also enable even greater education about the plight of animals trapped in our modern food system. Animal Equality’s VR iAnimal brings people inside factory farms—and we believe that’s just the beginning. As Forbes contributor Ross Gerber wrote last month, virtual reality, “will make an exponentially larger imprint on society, transcending gaming and having the potential to touch on everything from education, sports, entertainment, and medicine. The obstacle right now is the price.…”
But as with so many technologies that were prohibitively expensive in their first few years, VR hardware will come down in price and its easily scalable content will soon become ubiquitous.
Next week, in Part 2, we’ll talk about ending animal testing and how drones and artificial intelligence are revolutionizing anti-poaching and conservation efforts. So be sure to stay tuned!