Saturday, April 26, 2008

What Fake Meat and Microfinance have in Common

Just more proof that revolutionary ideas ruffle feathers - (or maybe it's ideas that I think are cool ruffle feathers). PETA's $1M prize has apparently been quite controversial (h/t Tastespotting):

PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk tells the New York Times that the prize offer caused "a near civil war in our office" and that "we will have members leave us over this." Newkirk observes, "In any social cause community, there are people who strive for purity." [...]

Purists see it as a moral surrender. "It's our job to introduce the philosophy and hammer it home that animals are not ours to eat," a dissident PETA official tells the Times. Purists also point out that carnivores suffer more obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Getting your meat from stem cells might not change that.

Pragmatists point to all the issues lab meat would resolve. No more cages. No more body-inflating drugs. No more slaughter. Less environmental harm. "We don't mind taking uncomfortable positions if it means that fewer animals suffer," Newkirk concludes.

My favorite subject in microfinance obviously happens to be its most controversial one: commercialization. While I'm not sure I would characterize the statist position in microfinance as being pure (simply given the often pervasive inefficiencies and poor business practices), those who object to commercialization and (unlimited) profitability lose sight of the end goal. For microfinance, it's about helping the poor make money to get out of poverty. For PETA it's about killing fewer animals. In the battle of ideas, both use economics as their weapons and as a result, both are considerably more sustainable. Then again, never one to shy away from controversy, proving others wrong (or being proven right depending on your point of view) over time just makes winning that much more satisfying.

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