Letters: A fantastic new way to make meat

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 7 August, 2013


I read with amazement of Google co-founder Sergey Brin sponsoring a Dutch scientist, who was able to produce five ounces of beef in a laboratory for £250,000. This is scientific genius.

It reminded me of another brilliant invention that an organic farmer once told me about, which sounded deserving of a Nobel prize.

This system requires no inputs; animals consume a variety of materials that grow naturally, in abundance (gorse, bracken and grass) on land that is too rocky, hilly and poor quality, to sustain arable farming; it reduces global warming (no scarce inputs are used) and is a highly efficient method of recycling – completely inedible plant material is converted into edible high-quality protein.

It also decreases demand for increasingly scarce, good-quality farming land and maximises the efficiency of resource use.

The technique is called Welsh hill farming. And some people have been doing it for centuries.

The rest of the world has now caught on and I am sure you can Google it, so perhaps Google’s owners are missing a trick. This invention has become so prevalent that I found a similar number of ounces produced from it on sale at my local Tesco – for around £2.50.

This invention is 100,000 times cheaper than Google’s meat. Spread the word. Perhaps this could go “viral “

Leon Pein, Barnet, Herts

How timely that Britain’s largest “fatberg” has been discovered in a sewer in London the day after the Quarter-Million Pounder was demonstrated nearby. Do I sense a connection?

Perhaps the fatberg could be shredded in an enormous liquidiser and recycled more cheaply than the lab-grown product? After all, neither of the two contains what perceptive humans would recognise as meat.

Phil Wood, Westhoughton, Greater Manchester

Why create test-tube burgers when we can live healthily on a vegan diet?

Animal farming, including that of the highest “welfare” standards, still causes suffering and death. And a vegetarian diet is unethical: cows and egg-laying hens live longer than meat animals and are treated even worse.

A vegan diet is better for the planet, reduces the risk of diseases and can easily feed the growing population

Mark Richards, Brighton

Squeamish about lab-grown meat? Oh, so eating the decaying flesh of sentient beings is pleasant, then, is it?

Sue Harris, Magor, Monmouthshire

City of London is committed  to arts funding

With reference to Neil Norman’s comment on Mark Ravenhill’s declaration on arts funding (“Could austerity really be good for the arts? Of course”, 4 August): in the recent Lord Mayor’s Gresham Lecture, the point was made that the relationship between public and private funding of the arts is symbiotic, not substitutive.

In today’s world, we need both. Organisations receiving a large amount of public funding – the Royal Opera House, the National Museums, the Royal Shakespeare Company etc – are in a stronger position to generate more traded income and attract more philanthropic giving. Our challenge is to inspire further investor confidence; facilitating philanthropy alongside public funding. 

The City of London is a microcosm of the relationship between civic and individual support for the arts. Each year, the City Corporation alone contributes over £70m to arts, heritage and culture – inspiring support from individual philanthropists.

The Barbican, the London Symphony Orchestra and other cultural City institutions run programmes for 300,000 people from our neighbouring boroughs every year. The true purpose of arts’ funding is not to make artists comfortable but to make art accessible – the arts are an international and local asset in which we will continue to invest.

Roger Gifford

The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of London

Neil Norman needn’t worry about any young actor being “comfortable” and therefore “no artist”. In fact, he cannot in his piece be thinking of regional theatre; although I note he is “writing a play”.

Ken Russell may have had “too much money” to make Altered States a good movie, but many urban theatres now have none at all. Where the hell are actors supposed to learn their business?

Clive Swift , London NW8

Britain will set green example

The global climate change investment survey you report (“Green policy failure is choking off billions in private investment”, 6 August) highlights the need for governments to put in place the right conditions to drive private money into low-carbon projects. I am pleased to say that is exactly what the UK is doing. Indeed, there is no criticism in the survey of UK Government policy. 

The survey sets out the need for “consistent legal frameworks regulating greenhouse gas emissions and incentivising clean energy investment”. This is what the Energy Bill before Parliament does, with the potential to create 250,000 jobs in the energy sector by 2020.

We have two-and-a-half critical years leading to the end of 2015 to get the international politics aligned. Britain will lead the argument for low-carbon economics by demonstrating how it can work at home and succeeding in this global race for a cleaner, greener future.

Edward Davey MP

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

“Row over how Britain can keep the lights on rages between Tories and Lib Dems”, you report (5 August)

But this is the wrong question to ask, because normally it is not the lights that we want to keep on but our oversized TVs, fancy coffee machines and tumble-driers. And we want our shopping experience brightly lit and air-conditioned.

We need a way to split essential electricity from luxury uses, and the easiest way would be to have a 12-volt “charged circuit” in every home. This would mean that the lights and a few other essentials are run from a battery which would be charged at night (at a cheap rate), maybe topped up by a photovoltaic panel. Once this were installed “luxury electricity” (230 volts) could be charged at a higher, premium rate. This would have a number of consequences with, for example, people doing more constructive things than watching TV.

It would put enormous pressure on manufacturers to produce ultra-low-energy products which could either run off the 12-volt circuit or could be charged by hand (eg wind-up radio). And maybe people would do more things manually, such as hanging out the washing.

If we went down this path, the need for fracking would fade very quickly. But would the public give up their widescreens to save the countryside?

Alan Mitcham, Cologne

We aim to make the Tour a winner

I am writing regarding your piece “Revealed: the uphill and down dale battle to bring Tour de France to Yorkshire’ (6 August).

The claim that I told the Prime Minister that a Tour de France 2014 bid, that would have the race beginning in Scotland, had been successful before a decision from the race organisers to award the Grand Depart 2014 to Welcome to Yorkshire had even been made is completely untrue.

The Government is committed to helping make Yorkshire’s Grand Depart and the subsequent Cambridge-London stage a great success and is contributing £10m of funding to the event. We are working in close collaboration with all key stakeholders, including Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit England, to maximise the benefits for those regions set to host the world’s biggest cycle race.

Rt Hon Hugh Robertson mp, Minister for Sport and Tourism

The other side of Sussex protests 

Your report “The only way is Sussex” (3 August) does not tell the whole story of the anti-fracking protests: Luddism and self-indulgence are also factors. 

Much of the caravan of professional protesters at Balcombe was made up of outsiders, and was previously seeking to disrupt construction of the desperately needed Bexhill-Hastings Link Road earlier this year.

There is significant poverty in many of the coastal towns and rural centre of East Sussex, which have poor road and rail infrastructure compared with the rest of south-east England.

Meanwhile, Brighton’s trumpeted green credentials are undermined by its export of pollution and congestion to the rest of Sussex. Sewage is pumped out to Peacehaven, refuse is sent to an incinerator at Newhaven, and electricity is generated from a nuclear power station and windmills on Romney Marsh.

RICHARD MADGE, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Double zero

The zero-hours contracts take me back to my childhood days in the 1920s. My father was a miner in the village pit. At the pithead there was a hooter known as the Bull.

Nearly every miner walked to work, but if the Bull sounded just before your shift, you stayed at home, without pay of course.

It is good to know these conditions still apply and there are those prepared to defend them. If Vincent Cable allows the employees in such straits to work for more than one employer, it will double their chances of getting nothing – for which they should be grateful.

BILL FLETCHER, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Ugly figures

“UK charities hit back at salary criticism after revelation that 30 bosses paid more than £100,000 a year” (6 August) but surely the question is not whether these salaries are “appropriate or fair” but whether they are ugly.

I see nothing beautiful in the argument that leaders of organisations will only bring their best skills to the job if they can get the maximum reward.

ELIZABETH MORLEY, Trisant, Aberystwyth

Sexist abuse

Repeated references by the Chancellor and others to “stay-at-home mothers” devalue the role of parenting in general, and of fathers in particular. It is blatantly sexist.

ROB WHEWAY, Coventry

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